Consent education has been the topic of a national conversation in recent weeks, with a wider discussion around sexual assault, women’s safety and men’s accountability surrounding. Per ABC, the Victorian government is now moving to make consent education mandatory in the state’s public schools. The initiative comes after sustained pressure on the government from students, including former Sydney student Chanel Contos (read our interview with her here).
While respectful relationships education does already feature as a core element of the Victorian curriculum, it will now become mandatory for all public school in the state. Further, consent specific classes will be introduced.
“This will build on the current program which is significant and does cover consent,” said Jaala Pulford, Minister for Employment. She acknowledged too that, “what we’re hearing from students is that they believe that an expansion and a greater depth to this training is required.”
The details of the program are still in flux, but it will hopefully address consent in a more nuanced and realistic way that the NSW police commissioner’s absurd idea of implementing an app to “record consent.” So much of the conversation around consent continually recenters men as victims of false accusations, which is yet another indicator that how we talk about gendered violence and sexual assault is broken and doesn’t centre the people actually experiencing it.
The refusal to see and acknowledge the prevalence of gendered violence against women and how actively it’s perpetrated by men—specifically the “good” men—seems almost unthinkable given the statistics. On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, one in six have experienced stalking since the age of 15, and one in five have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
Most of this violence is perpetrated by men that the women in question knew, yet so often the first immediate impulse is to question the reliability of women—whether that’s on a school playground, the office or at home. Further, people’s (and legal authorities) understanding of what consent is and what constitutes it is so broken.
Earlier this month, a former RAAF corporal did not receive jail time after choking a woman to death during sex. The victim, Mhelody Bruno, 25 was a Filipina transgender woman. While the gender and racial identity of the victim absolutely implicate other concerns around biased treatment of this case by the authorities, the issue of consent and it’s blurry “confirmation” absolutely privileges perpetrators over victims of violence.
According to the ABC, the former corporal Rian Ross Toyer told police “this was a common practice between the couple and while he conceded that Ms Bruno had never requested to be choked, he told police she had never asked for the practice to stop.”
How in any way is silence consent? A woman is dead after a man began implementing a sexual practice she never asked for and never verbally agreed to. This is not at all to say that she didn’t consent, but rather point out: why did a man decide to choke someone without getting enthusiastic, clear consent that was surrounded by some semblance of a safety measure?
Pulford has explained that the government intends to work with education experts as well as young people to form the consent education module for Victorian schools. However, this is also the Australian government that is currently in disarray over their incredibly poor handling of multiple alledged sexual assaults and rapes.
Lead image via Mark Evans/Getty Images.