Can School Consent Programs Help Reduce Sexual Assault Among Teenagers?

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What American Schools Can Learn From Australia’s Sexual Consent Education Programs

What American Schools Can Learn From Australia’s Sexual Consent Education Programs

Aug 16, 2022

Reports of sexual violence in American schools have been steadily increasing in recent years. A recent Washington Post article provided data from the U.S. Education Department which confirmed that reports of sexual assaults at elementary, middle, and high schools increased sharply between 2015 and 2018.

Can School Consent Programs Help Reduce Sexual Assault Among Teenagers?

Statistically, the Education Department found that:

  • The number of reports of sexual violence at schools during the 2015-2016 school year totaled approximately 9,600.
  • During the 2017-2018 school year, however, that figure spiked to nearly 15,000 reports of sexual violence among students (representing an increase of more than 50%).

Advocates say the staggering increase in reports of sexual violence affecting students in American schools underscores the need for more administrators to be prepared to handle such incidents.

The Washington Post report also noted that the discourse related to student sexual assault has typically revolved around college campuses, with K-12 schools receiving “far less attention.” Moreover, the Washington Post noted that K-12 administrators:

“… are far more likely to be unprepared or unaware of their obligations under federal law when it comes to handling allegations of sexual assault. Unlike colleges, where students often get training or information about where to go to report a sexual assault, grade school students might not know who to tell.”

Additional statistics provided by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) highlight the urgent need to reduce sexual violence in K-12 schools, particularly given the prevalence reported in postsecondary institutions:

  • Almost one in four undergraduate women experienced sexual assault or misconduct at 33 of the nation’s major universities.
  • 13% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).
  • Among graduate and professional students, 9.7% of females and 2.5% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
  • Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
  • 5.8% of students have experienced stalking since entering college.

A recent article in The Guardian provided details on ‘sexual consent‘ programs being implemented in Australian schools. Said programs could serve as a guide for American schools – both K-12 as well as colleges and universities – and should be viewed as a priority given the significant increase in reports of sexual violence.

In the sections below, we will review what the Australian school sexual consent program entails, look at how such initiatives could be beneficial to American students (particularly given the numerous scandals which have recently impacted our local community), and provide information on how to file a school sexual abuse lawsuit against your perpetrator for financial compensation.

Australia’s School Sexual Consent Programs

In February 2021, a report in The Guardian detailed how a petition started by a former Sydney schoolgirl, Chanel Contos, coalesced into a “litany” of horror stories from Australian female students who had survived instances of extreme sexual violence.

“Page after page after page. Story after story after story: hundreds of them. Stories of boys raping girls, boys forcing girls to perform oral sex, boys anally raping girls, boys assaulting their girlfriends, boys assaulting girls who are unconscious, sharing the stories and the images and the videos with their friends. In one case, uploading illicitly taken videos to a widely available porn website. Some girls are as young as 13. The boys are their peers,” The Guardian reported.

At the time of the report’s publication in early 2021, the petition had grown to include almost 3,000 testimonies from survivors and about 23,000 signatories from all over Australia and the world. The petition was eventually sent to various Australian MPs (members of parliament) in an effort to “convey the urgency of the situation.”

Since Cantos began raising awareness, the Teach Us Consent petition calling for earlier consent education in Australian schools was launched. As a result, “there has been progress in attitudes towards sexual violence, consent and gendered abuse in Australia. This progress includes Contos’s campaign achieving its goal of mandatory consent education in all Australian schools, starting next year,” The Guardian reported.

How Australia’s Men4Respect Program is Helping Reduce Sexual Violence in Schools

Andrew Taukolo started the Men4Respect program, which runs consent education initiatives in five schools in Queensland, Australia.

As part of the Men4Respect program, Taukolo handed teenage boys worksheets featuring tropes about sexual assault and abuse and asked them to consider if the statements were fact or myth. Some of the tropes included:

  • “Women like to exaggerate how bad abuse is.”
  • “Abuse only happens when a man is provoked by a woman.”
  • “If the abuse was really that bad, then the woman would leave.”

But as Taukolo told The Guardian, the most recent cohort of male students to be presented with such tropes “had a different response to those previous.”

Most of the young men generally say the statements are myth,” Taukolo said to The Guardian. However, he also noted that many of the teenage male students brought up Amber Heard.
“The young men would say things like: ‘But did you watch the Amber Heard trial? She could be just like Amber Heard, she could be a liar and just want money or just want attention,'” Taukolo said to The Guardian, referring to the negative posts directed at Heard on social media during Johnny Depp’s defamation suit against her. “And quite a few of the young men would then change their minds and say: ‘You know, women do actually lie a lot. Most women do lie a lot.'”

But Taukolo also told The Guardian that the alarming prevalence of sexual violence in schools confirmed by Cantos’s Teach Us Consent petition “was a wake-up call for a lot of young men.”

Nevertheless, Taukolo notes that there are still issues that need to be addressed among teenage male students.

When we dive a bit deeper [in the class] and ask what are your actual views on consent and give them some scenarios, that’s when we’d find the alarming attitudes,” Taukolo told The Guardian.

He also noted that a specific area of concern includes the fact that, “Some young men consider asking for consent to be necessary only insofar as to avoid getting into trouble.” “We then try to unpack that, and build their understanding of consent through empathy,” Taukolo said to The Guardian.

Individuals leading the various consent programs in Australian schools believe that real changes in attitudes among male teens can be created.

According to The Guardian’s report, in the eight-week Men4Respect program, 16% of the young men at the start of the course agreed that “men should take control in relationships,” but this dropped to none after the program. Additionally, more than a third initially agreed that “if a woman sends a nude image to her partner, she is partly responsible if he shares it without her permission.” But by the end of the eight-week consent program, this belief dropped to 10%.

As the Guardian reported, in the final lesson of the Men4Respect’s program, “the boys again [sat] in their yarning circle, this time holding a piece of paper with personal reflections on what they’ve learnt.

“The best part was being able to open up without any judgement from any of you,” one of the students said. “My main takeaway is how to treat women in a respectful way.”

Another student said: “My main takeaway is to treat everyone the way you’d like to be treated.”

School Sexual Violence Impacting the Los Angeles Community

School Sexual Violence Impacting the Los Angeles Community
Sadly, the Dordulian Law Group blog has featured countless stories of sexual violence scandals recently which have impacted myriad schools throughout Los Angeles County and the surrounding areas.

In October, a reported sexual assault at Hamilton High School triggered a Los Angeles Police Department investigation. A female student was allegedly assaulted in the boys bathroom of the West Los Angeles high school, with reports indicating that multiple students may have been involved in the attack.

In February, two Rialto, California, assistant principals were arrested after three female high school students alleged they were sexually assaulted by the same male student on campus, but the administrators failed to take any action.

Furthermore, last year two high-profile private high schools were besieged by numerous allegations of ongoing sexual abuse violations dating back decades.

The Thacher boarding school in Ojai, California, endured a sweeping scandal after revelations of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, physical abuse, and abuse of power by administrators and faculty members – some of which allegedly occurred four decades ago – came to light in June 2021.

Additionally, rampant sexual abuse allegations rocked the elite Cate School in Santa Barbara County last year when the Sheriff’s Office confirmed that detectives from the Criminal Investigations Bureau and investigators from the District Attorney’s Office had served search warrants at the school’s campus in June 2021. Authorities “sought to gather potential evidence to further the investigation” of these sexual abuse and misconduct allegations, and detectives had “identified several sexual assault survivors in this case – both current and former students of Cate School,” according to various media reports at the time.

For a list of the many additional school sexual assault, abuse, or misconduct cases that have made headlines in recent months, please visit our recent blog.

How to Secure Justice on Your Own Terms After a School Sexual Assault

Survivors of school or teacher sexual assault have options for obtaining justice on their own terms through civil lawsuits seeking maximum financial compensation with Dordulian Law Group (DLG). As one of the nation’s top-rated and most highly-respected sexual assault firms representing survivors in civil claims, DLG provides every client with all-encompassing resources and support.

Our Sex Crimes Division includes a SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice Experts) of dedicated professionals.

DLG’s SAJE Team is available 24/7 to survivors as a four-tiered support network:

  • Litigation Team: Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor with over 100 jury trial victories and 25 years of experience, leads a team of proven and skilled school sexual abuse attorneys.
  • Chief Investigator: Moses Castillo, our in-house investigator, is a retired LAPD sex crimes detective from the elite Abused Child Unit with over 30 years of experience.
  • Mental Health Specialist: Our in-house licensed clinical therapist has over 15 years of experience specifically assisting sexual assault survivors.
  • Victim Advocates: Our two licensed and nationally accredited victim advocates have devoted their lives to helping sexual assault survivors.

Founded by former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian, DLG’s team of experienced school sexual abuse lawyers have been fighting on behalf of survivors for decades. If you’ve been victimized by an act of school sexual violence, we will fight to secure justice quickly and recover maximum financial compensation for your claim.

If you experienced a sexual assault incident, don’t wait to file a claim. Contact our expert attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

For a free and confidential consultation regarding your school sexual assault civil claim, contact a member of DLG’s SAJE Team today at 818-322-4056. There is never any fee for our expert legal representation until after we’ve successfully secured a maximum financial damages award for your school, teacher, or campus sexual violence claim. If we don’t win, you don’t pay – it’s that simple.

DLG’s school sex crime attorneys have helped survivors recover more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts while maintaining a 98% success record. Contact us today to take the first step toward securing justice on your own terms and holding your perpetrator accountable.


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