Schools can’t end the scourge of sexual assault, adults behaving like adults can


That it can happen in the halls of the highest government office in the land, or in the back streets of Kings Cross, and that no one is ever held to account, is the point.

That it can happen in thousands and thousands of homes across the country, and people are rarely held to account, is the point.

That the former president of the United States can boast to the world that he can grab any woman he wants, whenever he wants, wherever he wants, and not be held to account, is the point.

When the president of the United States can act badly with impunity children get the message.Credit:Bloomberg

Young people learn by watching. They look for cues as to how to behave in situations where they have little experience. They listen to the words, they watch the finger pointing, and they know what behaviour is validated, and what behaviour is ignored. They learn how to be good people by watching adults, and learning what matters.

So, how’s that working for us?

Until we come to terms that we – the adults – are a huge part of the problem, nothing will change.

And for those who conveniently turn to schools and go “what are you doing about it?” , I can tell you. We are busting a gut trying to ensure that schools are allowed to teach about such matters, rather than have them being constrained by the personal but public opinions of politicians, or criticised when wanting to educate about sexuality. You cannot have it both ways.

We talk about consent every year, and it is well covered in subjects like Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. We have guest speakers, who are specialists in assault prevention, talking with students about how to respond when threatened. By year 12, most schools have taught on domestic violence, workplace culture and power, and sexual assault.

Despite this, every year something goes wrong. None of what we do in schools can counteract the flow of passive leadership and wilful blindness at a community and national level.

Every year, young people are hurt. Every year, assaults happen. Every year, young people are subject to controlling and aggressive behaviours. Sometimes within families, but in my experience, mostly from their peers, who somehow think that ignoring the need for consent is normal, and reasonable.

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Every year, at least one ex-student will return, having been sexually assaulted; seeking counsel, needing to be heard, wanting advice. They turn back to the communities where they are known, loved, and where they are valued, and respected. Our hearts break for those who do not return but struggle on alone.

Sexual assault and intimate partner violence are enormously significant and profoundly traumatic events that are beyond the remit of any one school.

It’s time we all grew up, took responsibility, and began acting like adults. Together, as a community, as a society, we can all do so much more.

And to the young people who have the courage to tell of their experiences? All power to you.

I am proud of you for enacting your own #MeToo. I am sorry for my role in any failure here and not being the protection you seek. It is heartbreaking.

I don’t care what school you went to, what situation you found yourself in, what clothes you wore, how much you had to drink, or how late at night it was; you are not the problem.

We, as a country, have to do better.

Dr Briony Scott is the principal of Wenona School, an independent, non-denominational school for girls.

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We hope you enjoyed checking out this news release on current QLD news titled “Schools can’t end the scourge of sexual assault, adults behaving like adults can”. This news release was presented by My Local Pages Australia as part of our local and national news services.

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