Australian woman wins consent education campaign
After a year of crusading for age-appropriate consent education in every Australian school, Chanel Contos has almost achieved her goal, and it all started with a simple question she asked on Instagram in 2021. Contos was assaulted sexually at the age of 13, but it was not until two years later, when she first received consent training, that she realized that what had happened to her was considered a sexual assault.
“I just thought it was normal and I thought it was what happens in sexual experiences because I didn’t know any better,” Contos, 24, told Reuters. After hearing many stories of sexual assault from her friends, Contos asked her Instagram followers in February 2021 if they had been sexually assaulted by someone who attended boys’ schools in Sydney.
Hundreds of affirmative responses later, with testimonies of sexual violence, Contos launched a petition demanding compulsory education appropriate to the age of consent in every Australian school from kindergarten to grade 10, the last year of the compulsory education, when students are about 16 years old. . A year later, the petition has garnered over 44,000 signatures and nearly 7,000 people have revealed their personal experiences of sexual assault.
“We live in a rape culture. Our society has basically normalized rape,” Contos said. Following his push, several Australian states have instituted consent education programs in their public schools, and a program is set to be mandated nationwide this year, following a biannual review of the National program.
Contos met with education ministers across the country last month to discuss implementing the mandatory curriculum, and all have agreed to it in principle. Acting Australian Education Minister Stuart Robert said recent government research had found there was not enough knowledge about sexual consent, particularly among young people.
“Our work and Chanel’s great work really coincided at the same time, and the program review was a perfect opportunity to make it a health measure for young people,” Robert said. The program would begin teaching the concepts of consent and asking permission to children as young as five years old.
Contos said she wants to continue pushing for institutional change to prevent gender-based violence and believes education and reducing taboos around these topics are key.
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