Breaking the Silence
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 5, 27 July 2018, p26
Breaking the Silence is one of White Ribbon’s flagship programs, aimed at ending men’s violence against women and girls, promoting gender equality and respectful relationships, and offering a new vision of masculinity.
It is a professional learning initiative for school principals and teachers providing foundational knowledge, tools and strategies to implement respectful relationships and violence prevention in schools. The program supports schools in bringing about a commitment to stop violence against women. It builds on existing initiatives to strengthen a culture of respect and equality at all levels of the school community – through curriculum, role modelling from staff, policies and procedures, domestic violence education programs and strengthened family and community partnerships.
The goals of the program are to work with school leadership to:
- increase school communities’ (teachers, staff, students, parents and carers) awareness of men’s violence against women and the causes of this violence, and the key role of schools in primary prevention
- change school communities’ attitudes and behaviours towards men’s violence against women and the causes of this violence
- equip school communities with strategies for embedding cultures of respect and gender equality in the school, to achieve generational change in preventing men’s violence against women.
This is working towards the ultimate vision of all teachers, students and communities across Australia working together to drive generational change, towards a future where every child can live free from violence and enjoy respectful and equal relationships.
The program also supports a broader regional and national context of violence prevention initiatives that emphasise the importance of respectful relationships education, including Education Queensland’s Respectful Relationships Education Program, following on from the Not Now, Not Ever report.
Breaking the Silence is informed by a health promotion schools framework, the five criteria for best practice as identified in school curricula and the National Standards for the Primary Prevention of Sexual Assault through Education. The program meets a key need for schools in implementing respectful relationships education, as identified by the Australian Federal Department of Education and Training: the need for teacher training and support.
One of the major reasons schools participate in Breaking the Silence is to raise awareness of domestic and family violence, which they are aware heavily affects families in their schools, and send the message that this type of violence is not OK.
All schools that participate in the program report increased disclosures from students and/or staff because of sending these messages. This means that schools can then support students and staff who are affected by domestic and family violence to seek help, via appropriate referral pathways. As one principal from a school in Western Sydney put it: “While it is sad that we have seen the number of referrals rise, it is also positive that students now feel they can speak to us about this and we can help to make a difference.”
Numerous schools report being overwhelmed by the support they have had from parents in the community for undertaking this important initiative in their schools.
The program also offers opportunities for student leadership. In approximately 50 per cent of schools, White Ribbon initiatives within the school are led by a student leadership team or group of students. In many cases this has allowed students who are passionate about this issue to shine, while raising awareness of the importance of the issue.
For more information, see www.whiteribbon.org.au/breaking-silence-program