A Lesson in Consent and Coercion

As part of the College’s ongoing Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum, our Year 11 students spent PCT today with Amanda Grimbly from WA Child Safety Services. The topic was Consent and Coercion. Usually, we present this talk for Year 10s, however, COVID-19 meant our Year 11s missed out in 2020.

The main idea of the talk was that consent isn’t as easy as saying, ‘No means no”. To say it is would not take into consideration the nuances of this issue. Issues of consent are often about power and coercion.

The talk began with the girls participating in an activity where they had to hold hands and look into the eyes of the person sitting next to them. This was designed to create a sense of unease and to show the way they comply when someone with more power than them tells them what to do. The girls were then asked to take note of the physical feelings of their body’s early warning signs. They should act on those feelings.

The girls were taught exactly what is meant by coercion and their attention was drawn to the fact that coercion doesn’t always sound sinister. However, it does usually feel uncomfortable, and they should trust their gut.

In response to the question, ‘How can I respond in the moment to sexual coercion?’ The advice to the girls was:

  • Listen to your gut
  • Recognise the threats, guilt, blackmail, and pressure as coercion.
  • You have the right to bodily autonomy – you say what goes.
  • Remember that you never know anyone sexual favours, for any reason; if it feels wrong, don’t do it.
  • Remove yourself from the situation and seek help from a safe network person, kids helpline or 1800RESPECT
  • If you feel unsafe contact police.

As we know, it is much easier to respond to difficult situations if you have practised them previously. With this in mind, Amanda workshopped with the girls responses to these statements:

  • If you really loved me, you’d do it.
  • You can’t make me stop now.
  • I’ll break up with you if you don’t.
  • If you don’t, I’m going to tell everyone we did anyway.

The girls sounded very empowered in their practised responses!

At the end of the session, our Year 11 ATAR Dance class performed a piece they had choreographed for the Dance Showcase titled, Only If I Say So. The energy of the performance and the visual projections on the wall behind the stage were a very strong reminder that Only Yes Means Yes.

You can find out more about Santa Maria College’s Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum here.

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