This September, Ontario will revert to an outdated 1998 sex-ed curriculum. Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) believes that this shift will adversely impact Ontario’s young people.
Providing comprehensive sex-ed is first and foremost “about making sure that young people receive the information they need and are entitled to in order to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives”. With the repealing of the 2015 sex-ed curriculum, Ontario youth will miss out on the following vital content:
I. Education which fosters the prevention of sexual violence
Ontario’s 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum includes information about equitable and safe relationships, consent, sexual violence and online violence that young people need today. This is particularly important because we know that young populations are at a high statistical risk of experiencing sexual violence. For example:
- In a Canadian criminal justice report, males made up 29% of child victims and 12% of youth victims¹. For males, being under 12 years old heightens their vulnerability to being targeted for sexual offences²
- Young women between the ages of 15 and 25 years in Canada are the age group most likely to experience sexual or relationship violence³
- Young women from excluded groups are more vulnerable to being targeted for sexual harassment and sexual assault4. This includes women of colour, disabled women, intersex, queer, trans, and Two Spirit women.
Education on sexual violence goes a long way towards prevention. Education offers innovative ways to challenge sexual assault myths and victim-blaming; and to reach out to diverse and young populations to talk about things that they may not be having conversations about at home. Education on sexual violence contributes to the prevention of sexual assault by:
- supporting young people to understand their rights. By being prepared to offer information about sexual violence, educators help equip young people with a clear understanding of their bodies, their rights and where to go should they ever need support.
- identifying the continuum of sexual violence (from harassment to rape)
- supporting young people to challenge sexual assault myths
- knowing the laws concerning sexual assault and consent
Education can also help others learn how to respond to survivors who disclose their experiences, and direct them to helpful supports in the community. Research indicates that many survivors wish to talk about their experiences, but fear the reactions of others. When survivors receive a positive response from their disclosures, the benefits of talking about one’s experience of sexual violence are in fact “associated with improved psychological health, increased comfort, support, and validation, and desired outcomes such as penalizing the perpetrator and protecting others”5. Other research shows that young survivors are most likely to disclose to a peer, family member or someone with whom they have a prior trusting relationship (that is, not necessarily to a social worker or other professional)6.
For these reasons alone, it’s important to talk with young people about sexual violence in the very spaces in which they spend much of their time – including at school.