“It’s a difficult culture to break,” said Dr. Julie Townsend, director of St. Catherine, over the weekend after an online petition exposed hundreds of rape allegations made by former Sydney schoolgirls against their male counterparts.
She’s right – it’s hard to break because this culture of sexual assault is finding support in the wider community beyond the school grounds. It’s everywhere: in universities, in the workplace, online, in professional sports, and in Hollywood. It’s in our social life. This culture doesn’t stop at the 12th year – these codes carry over into adulthood.
Chanel Contos launched an online petition urging people to raise allegations of sexual assault and demand better informed consent education in schools.
However, it is students and alumni who take responsibility for change, frustrated by this yawning void in their education. You’re rightly frustrated: comprehensive education about relationships and sexuality from an early age is known to protect sexual well-being.
Schools should be the main place of intervention. Such an approach enables large numbers of young people to receive consistent and high quality teaching about sex, relationships, and consent. Home is just as important, however, and it is crucial to equip parents and caregivers with the language and skills to talk to their children about these issues. If we are to fight this endemic culture, we will have to face it on several flanks.