ERA’s Young Women’s Advisory Group recently made this submission to the Australian Government as part of the consultations on the development of the Fourth Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.
This submission focuses on sex education and respectful relationship education and sees the two as inextricably linked. Young women deserve to experience positive and safe relationships with their family, friends, and loved ones. Knowing the difference between respectful versus disrespectful relationships and behaviour, including early warning signs, is vital to helping prevent violence against women, as well as making it easier to seek help. Prominent researchers in the field of violence prevention have long advocated for addressing sexual violence through prevention education. Violence (and the absence of) is seen as intimately connected to the concept of sexual health, and there is a clear link to integrate it with traditional sex education with relationships education. Engaging young people in ideas of consent and decision making equips them with skills to maintain respectful relationships to prevent gender-based violence. Respectful relationship education is necessary to help those who are most likely to experience domestic violence, for instance helping survivors recognise past and potential future abusive behaviour to prevent repeating a pattern of violence.