An Argument or domestic abuse? How will younger generations differentiate?

In the UK, sexual education is compulsory in secondary schools. However, parents are able to withdraw their child from either specific parts or all of the sexual education that is taught. Each secondary school should have their own policy displayed on the school’s website, explaining that their policy should: ‘’Define Relationships and Sex Education.” By the end of secondary school, pupils should know:

  • The characteristics of healthy friendships
  • How stereotypes can cause damage
  • The expectations of how they should treat others with respect
  • The different types of bullying
  • Violent behaviour and coercive control
  • Sexual harassment and sexual behaviour
  • Equality rights.
Someone's hand with 'speak up!' written on it

What’s the problem?

It is of paramount importance that those of secondary school age are aware of the above, because we need to protect children and help them to recognise situations that are potentially harmful to them. The question is: does our sexual education curriculum go into enough detail to equip our teenagers with the skills, knowledge and self-awareness to identify these abusive and harmful relationships and friendships? Can our young people confidently differentiate between an argument with their friends or romantic partner, and domestic abuse? A confrontational situation compared to coercive control?  

Is this age-appropriate? 

According to UK Government statistics, 33% of girls and 16% of boys have reported some form of sexual abuse. 25% of girls and adult women and 18% of boys have reported some form of physical abuse.  

In relation to emotional relationship abuse, around 75% of girls and 50% of boys reported that they had suffered from emotional abuse. The statistics are shocking and devastating, and we need to do more. It is understandable that some parents may wish to remove their children from sex education as it can feel uncomfortable or even too soon in their life. However, Inevitably, many young people at this age will experiment and it is important that they have the knowledge to know how to keep themselves safe. Whether this is by knowing how to practice safe sex, or having an understanding and awareness of relationships and friendships that can be harmful.  

The dangers 

A report conducted in 2019 showed that children from as young as seven years old had been watching pornography online, and a survey in 2020 showed that most children had viewed pornography that was of a disturbing or overly aggressive nature. If young people are not taught that this sexual behaviour is not normal or of a consensual nature, then how are we supposed to protect them? 

What can we do? 

How are young people going to know the difference between consensual sex and rape, ‘rough sex’ and rape, if this is not discussed and taught? Sexual intercourse is often a taboo subject, especially in regard to younger people. It is not the case that sexual relationships should be encouraged, however, young people are inevitably going to experiment. Surely it is better to teach them how to form and maintain healthy relationships and friendships, than leave them to potentially end up in a harmful relationship? Our national curriculum needs to go into deeper detail open up the conversation amongst young people, to reduce these statistics and to help protect them. 

Legal protection 

Should you or someone you know find themselves in an abusive relationship, there are a variety of legal protections available. Please contact our expert today for non-judgemental support and legal advice, so that we can go through all of the options with you. 

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If you need advice related to any of the topics mentioned above, please contact our team of experts who will be happy to help.