There has been considerable media interest in the testimonials submitted mostly by students and former students at schools in Sydney around sexual assault and other forms of inappropriate social and sexual behaviour.
The data suggests that it is mostly in the age bracket of 15 to 19, where young people are most at risk. While not all the victims of sexual assault have been all girls and young women, most are.
At the Knox school we are currently conducting a review of what we teach and how we teach it around sex education, the laws of consent, the social context of consent and how these are supported by our school values.
Several of our school values and the adherence to them by our community will assist in influencing how our young people deal with sensitive and potentially dangerous situations. The values I have in mind are Respect, Care and Empathy and Responsibility. How these values are used in the context of sexual intimacy and consent are almost self-evident. We also need to remember that the cognitive development of an average 15-year-old is not that of an adult, no matter how much the 15-year-old might like to think they are adult-like. The development of their pre-frontal cortex remains a work in progress. This is the part of the brain that defines executive function; the ability to judge risk and stay out of trouble. When the neural pruning of approaching adolescence is added to the equation, we can understand why teenagers tend to take greater risks than the children younger and the adults older than them. Adding access to alcohol and low levels of direct adult supervision in social situations creates a situation that can place teenagers at considerable risk.
The following are some resources available to you as parents that might assist in having appropriate conversations with your children regarding consent, appropriate protective attitudes, and friendly but safe behaviours in social contexts.
We have been advised by SchoolTV that a free-to-access video on consent and sexual assault has been prepared for parents, featuring Dr Michael Carr-Gregg. The video, includes tips for parents on how to initiate a conversation with their children on consent.
An article posted by Curtin University Research Fellow Jacqueline Hendriks may also be helpful for parents.
Mr Allan Shaw
Principal and Chief Executive