Addressing Australia's alarming sexual assault statistics

Many years ago, I was taking an annual overseas school trip with another school. We would normally do challenging activities like hiking and the students would spend three or four nights living with a family in a remote village and experiencing the day-to-day life.

On this particular trip, it came to my attention some of the local younger girls in a particular village were being sexually assaulted by an elder and authoritative figure in the village. I approached the person, filed reports to the police and I wrote to a number of different governing bodies and authorities expressing my grave concerns and urging an investigation into the individual’s treatment of the villagers. But I’ll never forget the sense of helplessness and look of despair in some of the young locals’ eyes as we left them behind in the village.

Women’s rights in many countries around the world are despairingly low and sexual assault occurs often. Unfortunately, even in Australia, our figures of sexual assault involving young people are alarmingly high. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s findings based on their police recorded data, young women and girls are more likely than other Australians to be victims of sexual assault and young males of the same group are most likely to be noted as the offenders. It is seen as a major issue in Australia and, between 2010 and 2018, rates of sexual assault recorded by police for young Australians rose by more than 30%. In 2019, the majority of sexual assault offenders recorded by police were male aged between 15 and 19 years old.

In 2016, Australian Bureau of Statistics found that one in six women and one in 25 men have experienced at least one sexual assault since the age of 15. Approximately one half of all sexual assault cases in young people report that the drinking of alcohol at the time occurred.

In my position at School, unfortunately it does come to my attention at times the ‘gathos’ (aka gatherings/parties) are the cause of poor behaviour which has at times brought about poor consequences and outcomes for our young students.

Much work is done in the Middle School which runs a number of brilliant programs promoting safety and educating all students on their rights and responsibilities. In the Senior School, during our Relationship Day in Enrichment Week, the Year 10 Students experience the sex education company Elephant Ed’s workshop which offers students an opportunity to gain accurate and age-appropriate information around topics such as sex and the importance of consent, negotiating consent and help-seeking behaviours. These workshops are delivered by highly trained facilitators and underpinned by a solid wellbeing framework and child-safe practices. Our school psychologists are present in each session and all students will or have participated in a debrief session on the same afternoon with Heads of House and other Senior School staff.

The best way that families can provide support after this day is to connect, be sensitive to their needs, curious and open-minded about their experience, and to allow them to share with you if and when they choose. This year and last, Senior School students took part in some important targeted sessions:

The Year 11 Privilege Workshop, including:

  • an introduction to different types of privilege in society
  • discussion around gender stereotypes
  • a focus on gender and male privilege, including how male privilege is associated with sexual violence
  • statistics around sexual violence in Australia
  • exploring toxic masculinity and strategies to be an upstander and support peers
  • intersectionality.

 

The Year 12 students took part in theSexual Violence Workshop, outlining causes of sexual violence, discussions around gender imbalance and power imbalance, and activities looking at the relationship between culture and sexual violence. This included:

  • a focus on gender stereotypes and the role they can play
  • prevention strategies that emphasise how it is everyone’s responsibility to prevent harassment, encouraging bystander intervention
  • legalities and statistics around sexual violence, with discussions about why it is gender based
  • seeking help and supporting peers.

In Week 6 of this term, we will also be ensuring the students are aware of Victoria’s Child Safe Standards and how they apply to the Carey community, including who we can access for help and support if feeling unsafe. The students will also revisit our understanding of the legal definition of consent and how it can be applied, including developing an understanding of the obligations our students will hold in relation to the reporting of child sexual abuse as 18-year-old members of community.

As stated above, statistics show that alcohol is evident with at least 50% of all sexual assault cases. On 20 June this term, Paul Dillon will be speaking to Years 10, 11 and 12 separately with the aim to provide education and training expertise as well as high quality information from contemporary research on a wide range of alcohol and other drug issues. Paul is highly entertaining and in my previous experiences with Paul at other schools, the students have genuinely looked forward to having Paul come and speak to them.

Paul Dillon will be also conducting a night for parents and carers titled ‘Young people, alcohol and other drugs 2022: What do parents need to know?’ on Monday 20 June at 7.00pm. It will examine current drug trends amongst school-based young people, including vaping and the online sale of drugs on social media apps. The session aims to empower parents with a positive message and assist them in having open and honest family discussions in this complex area. You will receive further information on this session soon.

Christian Gregory
Deputy Head of Senior School – Student Wellbeing

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