Education a priority in light of school-based pornography ring
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Education a priority in light of school-based pornography ring

One of Canberra's leading advocacy groups for young women has called on the ACT Government to continue its support of school-based prevention programs to prevent violence against women in light of the most recent pornography ring scandal.

While YWCA Canberra welcomed the government's 2015 election announcement of $615,000 to support learning programs in the ACT, Executive Director Frances Crimmins said the one-off funding was spread thinly over two years and across a range of prevention, early intervention and tertiary activities.

Frances Crimmins, executive director of YWCA Canberra.

Frances Crimmins, executive director of YWCA Canberra.

"Unfortunately, this is consistent with the fact that many programs in Australia have been one-off, ad hoc and lacking the gendered perspective and quality curriculum needed." Ms Crimmins said.

"The fact is that early intervention and tertiary responses must have an ongoing and secure funding base."

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She said a recent study of ACT schools concluded that those who were teaching sexuality education tended to focus narrowly on anatomical and biological aspects, neglecting key issues such as relationships, gender, consent and communication, decision-making, and intimacy and desire.

"Sexuality education and social and emotional learning programs in the ACT also often neglect sexual and gender diversity, overlooking the needs of same-sex attracted and gender diverse youth, as well as issues such as homophobic and transphobic bullying."

Ms Crimmins said she was disturbed by the latest story, particularly as it followed on from similar cases in Melbourne.

"It shows that misogynistic attitudes are still commonplace in Australia, as evidenced not only by this recent story, but by rape culture, everyday sexism, and entrenched biased attitudes," she said.

"The users of this website are committing acts of violence against young women, and the root cause of this behavior is gender inequality."

She said perhaps there was a need for such programs to be delivered in primary schools.

"The University of New South Wales and White Ribbon's 2015 report into young people's attitudes to domestic violence strongly supported the need for respectful relationships education for young people prior to reaching their teenage years," she said.

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She also drew attention to a recently released report from Our Watch into youth perceptions of respectful relationships. The report found that 1 in 3 young people don't think that exerting control over someone else is a form of violence; 1 in 4 young people don't think it's serious if a guy, who's normally gentle, sometimes slaps his girlfriend when he's drunk and they're arguing; and 1 in 4 young people think it's pretty normal for guys to pressure girls into sex.

"These trends are deeply concerning, and strongly indicate that primary prevention programs that teach respectful relationships need to be targeted to young people prior to these attitudes becoming entrenched."

Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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