Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault in a way that may be distressing to some readers.
There’s no denying that the dialogue around sexual harassment and assault in Australia is louder than ever. With each individual who demands justice and every grassroots campaign that emerges for change, the reckoning inches closer.
One such instigator is Chanel Contos, a former Sydney private high school student. She created the initiative Teach Us Consent that leading the fight for consent conversations to be included in Australian schools earlier.
How Did It Start?
An Instagram call-out ignited this campaign. After Chanel noticed a pattern of sexual abuse experienced by her peers, she opened the conversation to her Instagram story. In 24 hours, 200 people said that they had, or knew someone, who had been sexually assaulted by someone who went to an all-boys school in Sydney.
“I have lived in three different countries and I have never spoken to anyone who has experienced rape culture the way me and my friends had growing up in Sydney amongst private schools,” says Chanel.
Why Do We Need This?
In Australia, a woman is more likely to be sexually assaulted than she is to daily smoke. The inadequate sex education received during schooling years has an undeniable effect on people’s understanding of sexual assault.
“There needs to be conversations targeted towards girls that talk about issues that affect them more adversely like slut-shaming, sexual coercion, consent, peer pressure and then there need to be conversations towards boys that talk about toxic masculinity,” Chanel shares.
How Can You Help?
Teach Us Consent has a petition for consent to be included in Australian schools’ sex education in earlier schooling years — it currently has over 43,000 signatures. People have the option to add anonymous testimonies about their own sexual assault experience too. The petition and its accompanying testimonies will be presented to MPs around the country to help advocate for education reform. You can also donate to its cause.
Where Can You Follow Along?
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service.