You may be aware of the media attention surrounding an online petition calling for young people to come forward with allegation of sexual assault. In light of this, Ministers in some states are calling for a nationwide rollout of 'Respectful Relationships' education in all schools.
As an educator in an all-boys environment, I was deeply troubled by some of the testimonials provided by so many young women. While at Rostrevor, students learn about respectful relationships and sexuality through Pastoral Care initiatives, the Religious Education Program, via presentations delivered by SAPOL and Brainstorm Productions, as well as our Year 10 Stepping Up and Retreat Programs, clear message is that education around consent is being delivered too late, with many young women being subjected to sexual assault before they reach Year 10.
The development of a Wellbeing Framework and the review of our Pastoral Care Program provides us with an opportunity to review what we currently offer and explore how we can deliver learning around consent more explicitly and consistently. This also highlights a strong need for parents to step-up and start having conversations around consent. It is not enough to assume that your teenager knows or understands what it means and the implications surrounding it. Teenagers need to learn about boundaries, enabling them to respect themselves and their partners. Talking about consent regularly will help normalise it and encourage your teenager to experience healthy relationships as they journey into adulthood.
Edmund Rice Education Australia Executive Director Dr Craig Wattam recently made the following comments in relation to Consent Education in schools:
"The powerful testimonies provided by the many young women in the online petition are disturbing and are an indictment on societal decency. We must all take brave steps in confronting these issues and engage in honest conversations, not just with young men and women, but also with our families.
All of us; schools, families, and the broader community, must carefully consider and re-visit issues pertaining to sex education. More specifically, sexual consent education is required for both young men and women and we need to be providing this education in early adolescence.
All our schools deliver personal development and health curriculum and offer a vast array of wellbeing and adolescent development programs, but the distressing information contained in these testimonies show that, as a society, including school communities, we still have serious issues that we must address when it comes to how women are treated by men.
As a Catholic education community, at Edmund Rice Education Australia, our collective aim is to partner with parents in helping them educate their children to be responsible, decent citizens who actively promote the dignity of each human person. We can only do this if we are prepared to have the difficult conversations with our youth about their awakening sexualities."
For support in relation to some of the issues raised in this special report, please contact the following services:
1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732 www.1800respect.org.au/
Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au/
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 www.beyondblue.org.au/
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