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What is the right age to teach children about rape?

What is the right age to teach children about rape?
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Rape is not a subject that many parents look forward to discussing with their kids. The government has recently announced plans for lessons on sexual consent to be taught in schools from the age of 11, bringing the issue of the right age to teach children about consent into the foreground.

Protecting sexually active youngsters

The introduction to the draft document, which is being drawn up by the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Association, advises that young people should be taught about consent before they become sexually active. As some teenagers start having sex prior to turning 16 – the legal age of consent in the UK – the PSHE Association says that teaching these issues will help protect sexually active youngsters. The document states: “Recognising that some young people will be sexually active before the age of 16 does not equate to encouraging underage sexual activity.”

Staying safe

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told Sky News: “I do think it’s right, in an age-appropriate way, that issues around consent, when consent is given, when it is not given, when something goes way beyond the boundaries, who do you report to, it is important. And I know schools want to have the confidence and the tools to teach that well.” Joe Hayman, chief executive of the PSHE Association, added: “Without this change, topics like consent will continue to be squeezed from school timetables and taught by untrained teachers. Given that five recent child sexual exploitation inquiries have all highlighted the need for schools to teach pupils how to keep themselves and others safe, the inadequacy of government action on this area is surprising and deeply disappointing.”

When to start teaching about rape

Most parents begin teaching their children about rape in an abstract way from a very early age, teaching children that everyone is equal, that we should treat other people with respect and that they should speak up if they feel uncomfortable or upset. The lesson that ‘no’ really does mean no is usually drummed into toddlers, who soon come to realise that protesting doesn’t lead to gratification. Children should also know that nobody has the right to touch their body without their consent.

Older children

What is the right age to teach children about rape?As kids grow up then the specific subject of rape or sexual consent is more likely to come up. If you’re struggling with how to introduce the subject then make use of television shows, films, the news or video games. Ask your kids what they think is happening in a storyline or news item and take it from there, finding out how much they understand and answering any questions. It’s not really a discussion to sit down and have all in one go (especially not while the TV is still on!), rather it should be treated as an ongoing topic that comes up whenever kids have a question.

Teaching kids about consent

It’s important to teach both boys and girls about what qualifies as consent. People who are drunk, passed out or have been taking drugs are not capable of consenting to anything, no matter what they might say at the time. Kids need to know that they have the right to say no at any point, even if they previously agreed, and that their decision should be respected.

Teaching children about rape can’t just be taught through one class in school. It’s an issue of respect – for others and themselves – that has to be learned throughout childhood and beyond.

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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