Some of this nation’s youth see abusive relationships as normal – a view that can be corrected if schools embrace Healthy Family Life Education (HFLE).
That’s according to Project Officer with the Institute of Gender and Development Studies of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus Leigh-Ann Worrell who said key messages relating to healthy relationships and consent are not getting through to young people.
Presenting as a panel member on the topic Violence: Women, Children and LGBTQI in Barbados at the Crime Prevention Symposium on Friday, she said: “We noticed in some schools that the children disclosed experiences of sexual violence and feeling that there was nothing for them to do, nowhere for them to sort of unpack that and get support around it. Also, these children, and adults too, are not understanding consent. So when we talk about what consent is and what it isn’t and just a basic understanding of body autonomy as it relates to consent, it was not there for these children.”
“And, once again, because they were coding these things of love as not respecting boundaries, love as not respecting space, love as free agency where my partner can do whatever they can because we’re in a committed relationship. We need to be working with young people to unpack what love, intimacy and relationships are in order for us to combat gender violence in the next generation,” Worrell told those gathered at the Sagicor School of Business.
She pointed out that technology was also being used as a means of control in some young people’s relationships, with them being stalked by partners who have mirrored their cell phones or who make them go ‘live’ to prove their location.
Noting that this is happening with both boys and girls who are justifying such behaviour as love, she stressed that there must be support for HFLE in schools, as some guidance counsellors are uncomfortable with discussing sex and sexuality.