prevention better than cure, always

Content warning: This story contains references to sexual assault.

In a major development to come out of the professional sporting world, earlier today former NRL player, Jarryd Hayne was sentenced to a maximum five years and nine months in jail (with a non-parole period of three years and eight months) for sexually assaulting a woman in 2018, according to reports.

It’s been reported that in handing down his sentence, Judge Helen Syme said, “I do not accept that he was not aware she was attempting to push him away and trying to physically resist him … it was very clear she said no several times.

“I have found the offender was fully aware that the victim was not consenting and went ahead anyway. His decision to do so increases the objective seriousness.”

Prevent violence against women early

New Our Watch research released today reveals that participating in respectful relationships education helps with decreasing stereotypical attitudes and certain expectations around behaviour and interests.

The Respectful Relationships Education in Primary Schools Pilot in Queensland and Victoria, which involved 18 schools with a focus on Year 1 and 2 students, shows promising results of how taking a whole-of-school approach to address gender-based violence can shape student attitudes and teacher confidence and knowledge.

Key findings in the report include:

  • A decrease in stereotypical attitudes among school students, making them less likely to see jobs or activities as strictly for men or women.
  • Both boys and girls showed an interest in traditionally feminine jobs and activities.
  • Staff demonstrated an increased understanding of gender inequality and the ways in which it impacts on school culture.
  • Teacher feedback highlighting the importance of professional development in helping them deliver respectful relationships education that addresses the drivers of violence.
  • Some schools showed staff increased their understanding of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
  • Strong commitment to respectful relationships education and its role in school readiness across the school community after the pilot.

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly says that for as long as girls and women are seen as less equal than men and boys, disrespect and violence against women will continue.

“From birth, children are exposed to gender stereotypes that can set expectations around their behaviour and interests, such as the idea that only boys can play football or that girls love pink and play with dolls and unicorns,” says Ms Kinnersly.

“This can limit their ability to be who they want to be and to form equal and healthy relationships.”

Ms Kinnersly says that early research shows “that primary school is a critical time to engage children in age-appropriate educational content” that helps children “reject aggressive behaviours and discrimination” and instead develop attitudes that are respectful and equal.

‘Promote gender equality’ everywhere

According to Ms Kinnersly, respectful relationships education not only aims to build the skills of young Australians, but works with schools to ensure workplace culture, policies and practices are equitable and based on respect. 

“We need to build on the work of this pilot and embed this work in primary and secondary schools throughout the country,” says Ms Kinnersly. 

“We also need to ensure we are promoting gender equality and non-violence in not just our schools but all the places we spend our time, from our homes and workplaces to our sporting clubs.”

Further information about Our Watch’s work on respectful relationships education can be found at: education.ourwatch.org.au

If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au, or call 000 in an emergency.

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