Young people more likely to experience sexual abuse during curfew, survey finds

Young people were more vulnerable to sexual abuse during the coronavirus curfew last winter, new research has found.

The study by sexual health centre Rutgers and STD research group SOA Aids Nederland found that 8% of women aged 16 to 24 and 3% of men had had unwanted sexual relations while the 9pm curfew was in force from February to April this year. After the curfew was lifted the figures fell to 5% and 1% respectively.

Virtual sexual abuse was also more common, with 17% of males and 34% of females saying they had been sent unwanted explicit images or videos during the curfew period, compared to 11% and 23% in the summer months.

Ton Coenen, director of Rutgers, said the higher incidence was likely to be the result of more people having dates at home or having to stay overnight because they were unable to leave without breaking curfew.

Coenen also said young people were less likely to get tested for STDs, partly because GGD health services were too busy with coronavirus testing. ‘One in five were unable to get the care they were looking for because GGDs were so busy dealing with coronavirus that some of the STD clinics were open less often,’ he told NOS Radio 1.

The survey found that young people generally had less sex during lockdown, even if they were in relationships. Only 39% of men and 58% of women in relationships had sex at least one a week during curfew, compared to 52% and 75% in the summer.

Single people had fewer one-night stands during lockdown but were much more likely to get together with a ‘cuddle buddy’. The proportion of sexually active men whose last partner was a friend with benefits went up from 21% to 56% during the first lockdown, while 21% said their last sexual encounter was with a steady partner, down from 47%.

Single women were more likely to pair up with a cuddle buddy during the second lockdown, while during the curfew 67% who had had sex recently did so with a steady partner.

Overall around 8% of single men and 12% of women had sex at least once a week over the whole pandemic period, though the numbers were lowest for both sexes during the first lockdown.

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