Politics

These Students Want To Make Domestic Abuse Lessons Compulsory In Sixth Form

More than 53,000 people have signed a petition to make lessons on domestic abuse compulsory in sixth forms and colleagues across the UK.

Faustine Petron, a university student from Oxford, started the campaign group TeachDV alongside her friends just one month ago. The 22-year-old experienced abuse and harassment as a teenager.

“I was in an abusive relationship for three years,” she tells HuffPost UK.

“When I moved to university and started a new chapter in my life in a place where I knew no one, I had a lot of time to reflect on what happened to me and how I left school and college totally unprepared for the word of dating or being aware of red flags.

“I realised that the lack of education I had made me more vulnerable to the situation I found myself in and I started this campaign because I wanted others to benefit from the education I never had.”

Although teaching on domestic violence is included in the Relationships and Sex Education curriculum, the campaign group point out that compulsory classes cover Key Stage 4 (years 7-11), meaning emphasis trails off just as older students may need the information most.

They also argue that students deserve more than “one-off lessons” on subjects like domestic abuse, harassment and coercive control.

“Sixth form and college aged students 16-19 are of an age to get into relationships and they need to be ready for life after sixth form and everything to come such as university,” says Petron.

“If they aren’t aware of the red flags they are more likely to find themselves in dangerous and abusive situations.”

Since launching their petition, Petron and her friends have contacted MPs, schools, newspapers and anyone who’ll listen to find support. They’ve been overwhelmed by the reaction.

“I remember meeting my local MP Layla Moran when I was at maybe 900-1000 signatures and feeling pretty stuck because my local council weren’t engaging with me and all the other MPs I contacted ignored my emails and calls for advice,” says Petron. “Two weeks later we were at over 40,000 signatures!

“I remember waking up and checking my phone and almost choking on my Weetabix out of shock! Comments of support from survivors, parents and teachers really touch me and make me realise that although it is difficult campaigning for something that I am so closely linked to, it is always worth it.”

The group say there’s cause for urgency around implementing these lessons as incidences of domestic violence are on the up.

The number of domestic violence crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales increased by 6% in 2021 – from 798,607 in March 2020 to 845,734 in March 2021. And in 2020, there were also 24,856 offences of coercive control recorded by the police in England and Wales, according to ONS.

“Sixth forms and colleges have a duty of care to protect their students of all gender identities and backgrounds from falling into the vicious cycle of perpetrating or receiving abuse,” says Petron.

She points to a study by Refuge from 2017, which found one in three young people said they found it difficult to define the line between a caring action and a controlling one. Additionally, a third (37%) of young people would not know where, or who, to turn to for support if they were experiencing abuse.



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