Respectful Relationships Education in Preventing Violence Against WomenAug 26, 2021
Originally posted 24/08/2021
I recently read an important blog post from Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly titled ‘Melbourne private school boys’ ongoing sexist culture is unacceptable, but fixable’.
It centred on the infamous sexist chant by students on a Melbourne public tram in 2019. I have spoken about this very topic in a past blog.
This incident very much highlighted the need for a change in the culture, not only in our schools, but also in our workplaces, sporting clubs, universities, TAFEs and in government. So it’s 18 months on and what have we learnt?
What is really important is the need to implement comprehensive sexuality, consent and respectful relationships education in our schools. The blog reminds us that “...international and national evidence shows that embedding respectful relationships education into all schools, both single gender and co-ed, has the potential to prevent violence against women…”
Kids in primary school should be learning about gender equality and respectful relationships. The foundational knowledge they will get there will only be built upon as they go into high school and will remain with them in their adult lives. Having young people understand the principles of healthy relationships will impact how they form, manage and understand the relationships in their lives. This is inclusive of the relationships that they have with friends, family and romantic partners. We know that regardless of your gender identity and sexuality, everyone needs to learn about respectful relationships.
By understanding the negative impact rigid gender norms have on everyday life, young people can help us deconstruct these stereotypes and fight against harmful and outdated ideas. This education can also help us set up safe spaces for young people of any gender, and allow them to explore their identity without fear of being judged or ridiculed for how they express themselves.
It is because we know how valuable these lessons are for children is exactly why I have added Respectful Relationships lessons to Virtual Classroom.
In Virtual Classroom, there are lessons on human sexuality, consent and respectful relationships, for every year level - even Prep/Foundation - to provide comprehensive education on these topics and to have these conversations with young people. As we heard loud and very clearly from Chanel Contos’ Teach Us Consent campaign, young people desperately want these lessons and know how crucial they are in their development.
I take a whole school approach that Our Watch advocates for as well. In order to prevent violence against women and properly educate young people on gender equality, we need to have the school community involved in promoting the same values. This includes staff, parents and students all receive the same messaging on these topics.
You can read more about how important it is for parents to educate their children of gender roles and stereotypes in this blog of mine.
The lessons learnt from the tram incident are still important today. We need to remember that “...violence and disrespect towards women is not inevitable, it is preventable…” There is so much we can change by educating our children on respectful relationships and helping them build healthy relationships in their life from as early as possible. The sexist culture in schools does not have to continue.
In my parent and teacher presentations, I remind my audience of this quote from Rosie Batty: “Not all disrespect of women ends in violence, but all violence begins with disrespect.” The more steps we take to educate children about healthy, respectful relationships, the more violence we can prevent and the more we can build a safer space for our young people.