In light of upcoming White Ribbon Day on 25 November, we share our reasons why boys schools should actively promote respect for women and indeed all people in general, as respect should underpin all relationships. The pervasive issue of domestic violence continues to dominate the national conversation.
The confronting statistics overwhelmingly reference shocking violence towards women – in Australia the biggest preventable cause of illness and death for women aged 15 to 44 is violence by their partner or former partner. Increasingly, links are being made between disrespectful, misogynistic attitudes towards women and the prevalence of abuse and violence.
The addition of a Domestic Violence module to the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) syllabus was added in 2015. This has proven to be an effective way of opening a dialogue between our young men and women which clearly shows the link between attitudes and actions.
Navigating a socially responsible path through adolescence has never been more difficult in this online era. The rise of social media adds a complicating factor as young people make remarks in relative anonymity with no regard for recriminations that may disadvantage them in the future.
Demeaning and degrading images of women are more readily available and accessible, while popular culture often trivialises sexually aggressive behaviour and violence towards women. Casually flippant, but ultimately degrading, disrespectful remarks about women have, in many ways, become part of normalised social interaction.
This is constantly highlighted in the firestorms surrounding comments made by high profile personalities, celebrities and sports people in the media. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull weighed in with a simple yet powerful statement highlighting that, while not all disrespect towards women ends in violence, all violence against women starts with disrespect.
Fully understanding and accepting the truth of this statement is an excellent springboard into a disturbing and complex social issue. In PDHPE classrooms from Years 7 to 10, discussions around acceptable standards in the way boys and men interact with, and talk about women are helping to develop an awareness that all of us can advocate for much needed positive change, of particular relevance to boys schools. The key concepts covered by the PDHPE syllabus related to this critically important topic are date violence, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, abuse of power, rights and responsibilities in sexual relationships and family and domestic violence.
While society has become very good at teaching us not to be victims (particularly girls), there appears to be less emphasis placed on teaching our youth not to be perpetrators. Schools, in partnership with parents and the community, need to explicitly teach boys (and girls) about the respectful treatment of not only women, but all people (including themselves), rather than assuming they intuitively know how to behave respectfully. The teaching of respect as a human right should be reinforced in all dialogue dealing with relationships and sexuality.
At Trinity we further convey the importance of these issues to our student body by inviting speakers to the School, such as representatives from NSW Police, Domestic and Family Violence. Students and staff present are educated about the basic elements of domestic violence and assault. The following confronting and alarming statistics are shared:
- 1 in 5 Australian women have experienced sexual violence.
- 1 in 6 Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner.
- In Australia, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner.
- One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
- Women are five times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation as a result of intimate partner violence, and five times more likely to report fearing for their lives.
- In NSW alone, police respond to more than 140,000 incidents of domestic and family violence per year. That’s 380 cases a day and almost 16 cases an hour.
While some schools are tackling these issues head-on, it is important that families, communities and even the media play their part. Parents can use reports of domestic violence in the media as a learning opportunity for their children by having open discussions with them. We should teach our children that the online world’s dark side can expose them to images that they cannot ‘unsee’.
The popular saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ has never been truer. Open and honest communication in the home and the classroom and the modelling of behaviours are critically important in helping our young men grow into respectful citizens of whom we can be justifiably proud.
At Trinity we believe that:
- Being male is a matter of birth,
- Being a man is a matter of age,
- Being a gentleman is a matter of choice.
If you or someone you know has been affected by what was discussed in this article and you need assistance, contact the NSW Domestic and Family Violence Helpline on 1800 65 64 63 or visit the Family and Community Services website.
Trinity Grammar School is fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with exceptionally high levels of individual student attention, and we pride ourselves on knowing, understanding and nurturing every student. To learn more about the Trinity difference and how we help boys to realise their potential, passions and purpose in life, sign up to our enewsletter.