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Guest blog: Amber Rudd MP says children should be taught about relationship violence and sexual consent in schools

(11 Posts)
JessMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 07-Feb-13 11:03:13

Today we've got a guest blog from Amber Rudd Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye, who writes about why she's supporting the One Billion Rising campaign.

The campaign is a global one to end violence against women - have a look here for a previous post by Stella Creasy MP for more background, and there's an interesting interview with Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler, who founded the campaign, in the Guardian here.

In the UK, the campaign's efforts are being focused on young people, relationships and violence. A cross-party group led by Stella and Amber have tabled a motion on 14 February called for "personal, social and health education [to be] a requirement in schools, including a zero tolerance approach to violence and abuse in relationships".

What do you think - should it be compulsory for children to learn about relationship violence and sexual consent in schools? Read her blog and let us know if you blog on this subject, or tell us what you think here on the thread.

MrsMushroom Thu 07-Feb-13 11:56:22

This is a good idea but not within primary schools. It needs to begin at an age when girls and boys are starting out on relationships...or getting curious about them. So from 11 or 12 plus perhaps.

I think the main thing that needs to change is that schools need to recognise and have consequences for sexual harassment within their walls...they don't have a policy to rival those which are in place for racial discrimination or racial bullying in schools and yet sexual harassment is very prevalent.

startingfresh Thu 07-Feb-13 12:43:21

I think it does need to start at primary level actually. Maybe not as much focus on "relationships" and the sex side of things, but it's never too early to tackle the gender divide.

On my DS's induction day at school he was told by a girl in his class that he couldn't play in the play house as it was "for girls". Likewise, he marks out certain toys and colours "for girls" and others "for boys". I've gone out of my way to encourage both my DC (I have one of each) to play with whatever they like, and that there's no such thing as toys that a boy/girl can't play with, but it's still there in schools, on the television, and in the shops.

Learning at 5 that girls and boys are different is the most basic step towards learning to treat them differently. No one is suggesting you sit down and tell primary age children all the horrors of abuse and violence against women, but they should learn that they are all equal, all the same, and all worthy of respect and care.

Not to mention, there will be children at primary age who are in an abusive household already. Surely it's right to teach people from a young age that it is not normal, that they do not have to live their lives that way. Why exclude the most vulnerable and impressionable people from this, when they are the ones who will form the next generation and they are forming their future selves now?

Nanniejo Fri 08-Feb-13 11:35:19

I think there is a lot of confusion for children nowadays about gender and simply letting them be themselves at a young age is a great thing, because there is a difference between girls and boys! As they get to their teens, they need to know how to relate to the opposite sex without the sex bit, before they can be eqipped to have a sexual relationship. We cannot presume nowadays that children have had good role models from their own parents. Relationships should begin with learning to forgive, share, trust, give etc...

MrsMushroom Fri 08-Feb-13 12:05:06

likewise gender divides related to playthings is a separate issue. You're right of course but ime primary schools are careful to avoid discouraging boys from dressing up or going into the playhouse just as they are careful to ensure girls can play soccer etc.

The MN Let Toys be Toys for Girls and Boys campaign addresses some of the issue surrounding the pinkification of toys....schools need to be careful they do not colour small children's perception of relationships too soon.

MmeLindor Fri 08-Feb-13 23:38:19

I am very glad to see this initiative, and applaud Amber and Stella for taking a stand on this issue.

In the past months since I wrote this blog post about recognising the signs of an abusive relationship, the phrase 'controlling relationship' and its variations has become the top search term leading people to my blog.

During the MN Rape Awareness Campaign I spoke to various women about their experiences in an abusive relationship and they all said that their abusers fitted the profile outlined.

I am convinced that we should be teaching children - not just girls - about this, and that it should start in primary school with the first discussions about controlling behaviour. This blog post outlines how even young children can be made aware of this issue.

The manipulative behaviour that we see in adults who abuse their partners, is to be seen in children too. We might call it 'bullying' but it is basically the same - when you compare the two blog posts that becomes very clear.

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 08:03:44

I think the issue of controlling behaviour is definitely a good point MmeLindor these relationships begin in reception don't they...and can make DC very unhappy. Teaching kids how to deal with controlling friendships might be a great way to get the message across.

Tee2072 Sat 09-Feb-13 08:17:38

I absolutely it should start in primary. My niece, who is 9, is in a friendship with a girl who is very controlling. My sister does everything she can to get her daughter to see this is not a good friendship, but she just won't listen.

Perhaps she would listen if it was a teacher.

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 09-Feb-13 15:16:36

I saw A Monster in Paris with my DD recently and at the end there's a scene where the bloke remembers a girl running away with his toy and him running off crying. She explains that she was hoping he'd come after her to get his toy and she's always loved him.

It really pissed me off. Afterwards we discussed it and I explained that that's part of society's minimising shit behaviour - that it's not OK to be nasty to other kids and it doesn't mean someone likes you because they pull your hair, steal your toys etc. and she should be aware that those sorts of cultural messages are made by the same sorts of idiots who also want to persuade her that she needs to spend thousands of pounds on crap because she's not good enough without it and that these people are Pure Unbridled Eeeeeeevil when not being staggeringly stupid idiots. (Obviously this discussion was conducted using age-appropriate terms. grin)

That shite is everywhere and it can definitely be discussed at primary level.

HilaryBurrage Fri 15-Feb-13 12:32:26

I've just done a blog on this very topic (OBRUK & PSHE), which people may like to take a look at: hilaryburrage.com/2013/02/14/the-sande-society-sororities-and-sex-education-why-pshe-is-important/ - please read to the end to see where it takes us!

I've been involved variously in this area for a long time, and I'd completely agree, as a parent and as an educator, that PSHE (Personal, Health and Social Education) really does have to begin - of course in age-appropriate ways - as early as possible.

You may note that I've written in the instance above particularly about sexual abuse (including the horrors of FGM): learning the essentials about 'boundaries' can't start too early, once children are up and doing things on their own.

Children need to know, at the very minimum, where to turn if things get worrying or scary... and teachers / others with safe-guarding responsibilities need to know how to help and support.

Sometimes these things can be quite an emergency, so it's no good leaving it till the issue crops up.

Thanks,
Hilary

PS If you would like to know more about FGM and how you can help to stop it, please see here: hilaryburrage.com/fgm/

HilaryBurrage Fri 15-Feb-13 12:35:11

PPS As a lot of people above have, like me in my blog, already said, it's all about BOUNDARIES.
Children are being seriously short-changed if this isn't explained to them.

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