When I speak about Domestic Abuse to groups of people the same three questions come up:
What about men?
How successful is the recent Coercive Control law?
Are young people being educated about Domestic Abuse?
In different settings, with different participants, the same three questions are being asked time & time again. So, I decided that I wanted to create some answers to the questions.
First stop: Young People a.k.a Teenagers.
It’s been a while since I was a teenager *sigh* but I do remember a couple of things.
1 - Life is hectic.
Friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, trends, school, homework, more homework, home, parents, sisters, brothers, pressure, sports clubs, expectation, exams, social media, rest of your life, fitting in, being on time… The list is endless
Teenagers are expected to hit all the targets, tick all the boxes, keep everyone happy whilst having to carefully navigate complex social and family environments. Most are operating in the most challenging of circumstances, with mental health problems affecting 1 in 10 children & young people. They include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.
2 – We never talked about Domestic Abuse at school.
Heck. We didn’t have PSHE lessons when I was at school. We were told that drugs were bad, smoking would kill you and to never speak to strangers.
The world has changed and so have the issues in it. Now the words Child Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking are being used. Female Genital Mutilation, Revenge Porn and Breadcrumbing. I don’t need to tell you how important it is that students have a space to discuss these issues, improve their understanding and feel better equipped to respond when they’re faced with these situations.
So, I’ve taken what I do know, and acknowledged what I don’t and am pleased to say that The Rita Project is now delivering Domestic Abuse workshops to a variety of schools in the local area. And on reflection, I believe this is where the real work begins.
Talking to various Heads of PSHE, it’s become apparent that some schools have removed the subject from their timetable and are now delivering during form time. Whilst some have an active rota of external speakers, some are squeezing the content in between the register and first lesson of the day. It’s a lottery as to how much content students receive, and I think that’s petrifying.
I’ve desperately tried not to turn this into a rant about the ‘Broken System’, but essentially this is what it come downs to.
In conversation, teachers share that the lack of funding and increasing performance pressures, forces school to shave the subjects that aren’t visible on the league tables, therefore losing vital content that could make a significant difference in somebody’s life.
Bottom line: This isn’t good enough. But, as my teacher neighbour said to my last night, “You have to make the best of what you’ve got”
So, in response to those who ask about Domestic Abuse awareness in schools? They are trying their best with the resources they have.
My concern and what the policy makers and budget setters should be prioritising, is ensuring that young people are given the correct tools and opportunities to develop into resilient and informed adults, able to safely navigate our increasingly calamitous society.