A week following allegations made by Brittany Higgins, where the former Liberal Party staffer alleged she was assaulted in Parliament House in 2019, a viral petition has been created to call for the need for earlier and better sexual consent education to be taught in Australian schools.
The online petition—created by Chanel Contos, a former student of Sydney's Kambala girls' school—since going live on February 18, has garnered more than 2,000 testimonies of sexual assault from current and former Australian private school students.
The idea to create the now-viral petition came after Contos raised the issue with friends via an Instagram poll, which revealed that 72 per cent of 300 of her friends had said they or someone they are close to had experienced sexual assault from a student from an all-boys school in Sydney's eastern suburbs, she told The Guardian.
Nearly a week later and more than 16,000 people have signed the petition, which calls for testimonies from current and former students—with Contos also opening up the petition to include schools across Australia.
The petition includes first-hand accounts of sexual assault from women during their schooling years, with schools in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and New Zealand all involved, from some victims who allege to have been as young as 12 at the time.
"The majority of signatories have long graduated... yet, they are advocating for younger generations to receive an education they were deprived of or received far too late," the petition read.
The alleged incidents are harrowing, with some victims claiming the anonymous forum is the first time they have revealed their experiences.
Contos' efforts have already sparked change, with St Catherine’s principal Dr Julie Townsend working with nearby boys' school Waverly College to introduce additional education for students and parents on the issue, per the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I’m really grateful to those girls. They have done the next generation of boys and girls a great, great service,” Dr Townsend said, while Waverly principal Graham Leddie added, “While the instances in the petition are all outside of school, schools have the opportunity to be part of the counter-cultural change."
The petition is still open for those wishing to share their own experiences.
If you or someone you know needs help or advice, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. If you need help immediately, please call 000.