This morning Australia woke up to news from the US of a television anchor who was fired overnight following sexual harassment reports from a colleague. Shortly thereafter, the local radio station held an open mic asking listeners what is being done to educate children in schools around respectful relationships and behaviours toward women. The DJ quoted a “cultural shift” which has seen a spate of creditable allegations of sexual harassment against high profile individuals come to light. Today perhaps, is a good day to talk about respectful relationships.
As a mother, I remember seeing a advert by White Ribbon a few years ago launching their school programs. Now known as Breaking the Silence, students learn and experience respectful relationships, gender equality and how to challenge attitudes which support violence. The aim is to create real generational change to stop violence against women in Australia.
Early last year, Victoria introduced Respectful Relationship education into mainstream. It was reported on by major newspapers and made quite a splash. And for good reason, the Victorian Education Department believes it to be a primary prevention initiative to reduce family violence.
Do you know what a “Respectful relationship” is? Can you define this in a cohesive manner and formulate a conversation with your colleagues, family or children?
As a young mum, I thought exampling good behaviour would be not only the cornerstone, but enough for the next generation. Perhaps there is an assumption that our children, being the natural sponges they are, will pull in all the good bits and filter out the not so great. But, as I have learned, and many parents are continuing to learn, our children are not our liver, they are our heart. As such, we need to ensure that we are equipping them with the tools they need to operate in a safe and healthy manner for a long and rewarding life.
If exampling good behaviour as a parent were sufficient (and we need to ask the question of what constitutes “good behaviour” anyway), would an entire generation be in crisis? Even as we speak, anecdotal evidence indicates a continuing rise in family violence. Some argue that people feel freer to report domestic incidents than a generation ago. Good! But we also know there is a new generation of offenders, victims and survivors and it is not likely this argument would support the current rise in domestics.
Today, I encourage you to get behind respectful relationships and understand some of the principals behind developing, encouraging and recognising a respectful relationship. As a community, through conscious, educated responses, let’s work together toward a culture free from family violence.
Some resources for you: