Primary prevention initiatives
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended that organisations such as schools pay particular attention to the needs of children and young people with disability.
The commission made the following points in relation to these students.
- Primary prevention initiatives (such as respectful relationships education) should be 'inclusive, accessible and designed to meet children’s physical, cognitive or communication needs'.
- Members of the community can have misconceptions that children with a disability are asexual or will not suffer harmful impacts from sexual abuse, and that disability-specific institutions are protective by nature and therefore abuse will not occur in them.
- The commission was advised that children with disability can often miss out on appropriate relationship, sex and sexuality education because they cannot attend relevant classes or the material is not accessible to them. Many children with disability do not access the health curriculum in their schools because they are segregated, including for certain classes. This can lead to them missing out on critical information and discussions about safety.
- Mainstream education programs on respectful sexual relationships are often inaccessible to children with disability, making it more difficult for some to identify and speak up about abuse. All prevention education should be accessible by children with disability. International literature establishes that children with disability face increased risks of sexual abuse and other forms of maltreatment.
The topics and activities within respectful relationships education demand an understanding of the particular needs and contexts of your students and their communities.
The subject matter of respectful relationships education potentially facilitates student disclosures of violence or abuse. Many parents lack knowledge and resources to educate their children in relation to harmful sexual behaviours. Some parents have misconceptions about age-appropriate sexual development (with potential ramifications in terms of understanding and supporting school curriculum).
How well-prepared is your school for this work?