Without trusted information from schools, young people will turn to less reliable sources such as the internet or their peers as they navigate life outside the classroom. We must end this silence and make age-appropriate SRE mandatory in all schools if we are to tackle this safeguarding crisis. Young people have now told us loud and clear what kind of SRE they want. In our report, 99% of young people wanted SRE to be taught in all schools. 97% wanted it to be LGBT inclusive. The government must listen and act, and give our young people the tools to make positive and informed decisions, and to have healthy relationships, which they are ready for and want - wherever they go to school, and whatever their sexuality.
Bringing Up Boys is the subject of a debate at Cheltenham Festival this Thursday 9 June and the brilliant campaigning organisation Let Toys Be Toys are on the panel. They asked their Twitter followers what is important about raising boys so, as a mother of two primary age boys and a campaigner on Challenging Gender Stereotypes, here's what I chimed in with.
Some argue, "learn how to speak up for yourself. Just say "no." But nos are often ignored and become impossible to say when someone feels like they have no choice. The CONTEXT in which consent is given is the most important part and needs to be taken seriously by us as individuals, by court officials & police, and by the whole of society.
The tea analogy doesn't cover all the things that make the debate around consent a very real one - power imbalances, age differences, capacity, whether someone genuinely believes there was consent. Reducing this heady cocktail of factors down to a simple cup of hot tea does a disservice to men and women who are genuinely confused about whether what happened to them was rape.
When you're a teenager and trying to fit in 'feminism' is almost like a dirty word, so if you're radical you label yourself a 'humanist' because while you don't really understand what feminism means, judging by the reaction of your peers it's not 'cool' and it certainly isn't sexy. Now at 21 years of age I couldn't find one female friend or family member who doesn't label themselves as a feminist, and most of the women in my life have been on the receiving end of some kind of sexual violence at one point or another.
The more I learned about consent culture, the more I realized that I had been in many situations what were indeed sexual assault- without even knowing it. I always imagined rape to be a masked man jumping out of bushes attacking a female night runner. Never did I imagine it could happen to me by a friend, a family member, or a lesbian lover. Since I started #StopRapeEducate in 2014, thousands of beautiful souls that have reached out to me. Their survival stories have impacted my self-awareness and growth profoundly. When we share our experiences, we help others recognize what has happened to them so that they may move forward in healing.
I could probably list a hundred reasons why I love Glasgow, with everything from the culture, music, architecture, nightlife, and countless restaurants, to buskers and bagpipers on Buchanan Street, the Clyde, the Duke of Wellington with his ever-stylish traffic cone hat, and, of course, the people of Glasgow themselves.
If any of these occurrences had been done by a stranger or a random club-goer I would probably have shouted or slapped or let the Irish rage bubbling up inside erupt. Instead I kept quiet and for the most part, laughed it off. So as not to cause unnecessary drama amongst friendships or to maintain a polite-ish persona.
As unions and universities, we have the perfect opportunity to grab the attention of young people moving into their new home. We can show them that it's okay to speak about consent and it's okay to speak about rape. We can be the ones to help survivors report and ask for help. We can be the ones to help destroy the shame that so often nips at their heels.
I hope that none of you have known the pain, terror, shame and hatred that come with a sexual assault. However a sad statistic states that in 2014 20% of women and 9% of men between the ages of sixteen and fifty nine have. And those are the ones that have been brave enough to come forward and report it.