A conversation regarding consent
A recent petition instigated by a former schoolgirl in Sydney calls for young women to come forward if they have been subjected to sexual assault whilst still at school. This call to action has since gone viral with thousands of young women signing the petition or sharing their stories which are often graphic, disturbing and upsetting.
The petition calls for sex education, in particular the issue of consent, to be taught at a younger age in schools. The observation being that consent is being taught too late, with many young people not understanding the boundaries of consent resulting in sexual assault or rape. This call for change has made many schools reassess their curriculum around sex and life education to help protect young people across the nation.
Siena College has been working with a network of schools to develop programs for students and parents around Respectful Relationships. Some of you may remember and have even attended our parent seminar Harmonious Families – Changing the Story for Our Young People. We are committed to providing opportunities to discuss how we can work together to create respectful relationships in our community which includes exploring our understanding of stereotypes, expectations and roles.
Respectful Relationship forms part of the Health curriculum in Years 7 to 10. It acknowledges that our beliefs about the way girls and boys, women and men are supposed to act are formed in childhood and adolescence and also shaped by how we see gender roles and relationships in families, organisations and within media and popular culture.
Gender stereotypes can strongly influence attitudes and behaviours towards us, and in turn towards others, including how we make decisions and use our power, status, access and control.
Curriculum delivery alone is not sufficient to drive significant change in this space and we continue to look for opportunities to talk with our students about their rights and personal safety through our Wellness programs. We endeavour to create safe spaces at school so that our students feel that they can share their experiences and seek support when they need it. In recent times, we have spoken a great deal about the partnership between home and school and this issue amplifies the need for this to continue. Parents also need to start having conversations around consent sooner rather than later, as some teens experience their first sexual encounter well before the subject matter is delivered. It is not enough for parents or carers to assume that your teenager knows or understands what consent means and the implications surrounding it. It is important for them to learn about boundaries to enable them to respect themselves and their partners.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg talks about the importance of parents normalising these conversations with their children and offers parents guidance around the topic of consent to ensure your teenager experiences healthy and respectful relationships. We hope you take time to watch this video. Here is the link to this special report.
Although this may be a sensitive topic and perhaps an awkward subject for many adult carers to address, it is a conversation that needs to be had with all young people as they journey into adolescence. Helping them understand consent is a step towards kindness, sensitivity and respectful relationships.