Young people in Southend challenged on attitudes to sexual consent.
Posted 9th August 2023
Young people in Southend are being challenged to think about their views and behaviour around sexual consent.
Southend on Sea Rape Crisis (SOSRC) is working with four secondary schools in the borough to raise awareness among young people around consent, being an active bystander and the harms of pornography.
As part of the PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) curriculum, students in Year 9 to Year 13 are encouraged to join the discussion about modern behaviours they may have witnessed or been a part of.
They are presented with various scenarios and challenged to decide whether the young characters have consented to the activities depicted. They also discuss social media and trending topics in youth culture.
Shana Thomas, independent sexual violence accredited adviser, said: “One of the scenarios we discuss is a girl going home drunk from a nightclub with a boy. She has a boyfriend and the next day says she has been raped. Often, the view of young people is that she has cheated and therefore regretted it and that is why she is saying she was raped. We talk about what she was wearing and the rape myths associated with that.
“We have a discussion around the fact drunk people can be raped, people with partners can be raped and people in marriages can be raped. We don’t want young people to have this idea that because someone has a partner, they must be feeling regretful and are therefore calling it rape out of guilt.
“Sometimes, we are shocked at what they say and are shocked that young people think like that. But, even saying those things is part of the education. By engaging in that way, it is still prevention education as it is getting them to question why they think the way they do. Even if one person thinks differently to the rest, it is preventative as it gets them thinking more critically. It is not just about giving them skills and the right language, it is about raising awareness and giving them the space to have those conversations.
“It is getting the conversations to happen, so young people can understand their experiences.”
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) has contributed £5,000 to Southend on Sea Rape Crisis in the form of a crime and disorder reduction grant from the 2022-2023 Community Safety Development Fund to continue the work with young people in Southend.
Shana said: “This funding is going to top up the work we are already doing in secondary schools with our prevention classes.
“The response to our classes has been amazing. We have really found the classes have had an impact on the way boys are having conversations, particularly. We are also seeing a lot of referrals and disclosures from girls as we have given them the space to talk about these things and reflect back and identify sexual violence in their lives.”
PFCC Roger Hirst said: “Youth culture today means many of our young people are living their lives online, seeing a warped view of the world through social media and worrying trends. It can be far too easy for them to believe that what they are seeing online – from the language used to the attitudes, views and behaviours of others – is the correct way to behave in real life.
“It is vital that work like this goes on, that the conversations – however embarrassing or awkward – take place with our young people. They need to understand that what they are seeing and hearing can often put themselves and others in danger.”
Visit sosrc.org for support.