Patty Kinnersly: Kids are key to breaking cycle of violence against women

Tiffany Woodley, Georgia Lyall and Lynn Cannon. These are the names of West Australian women whose lives have been tragically cut short — killed or allegedly killed by the hands of ex-partners in the past few months.

These deaths and the pain and suffering that they and their families have endured was not inevitable. Violence against women is a national emergency, and our national shame, but it is also preventable.

No parent wants their child to grow up to experience violence or to be someone who uses violence, but that likelihood is high, with one study showing that one in four young people aged 18-19 reporting experiencing violence or abuse from their intimate partner in the previous year.

Violence against women does not occur out of the blue. It is driven by disrespect and gender inequality that exist in our society. A large body of international and Australian research shows that respectful relationships education from a young age help can change this.

Implementing this initiative requires a comprehensive whole-of-school approach and is one of the preventative actions we can do now to prevent violence against women and their children in the future.

This week, the WA Government announced that public and non-government schools would commit to relationships and consent education.

This is an opportunity for WA to make a real difference in transforming school cultures to support equality and respect.

But respectful relationships education must be age-appropriate. For example, in primary school age-appropriate respectful relationships education may look at friendships and how to set boundaries or ask for permission before giving a hug or giving a high five.

For high-schoolers, the content is more advanced — and needs to be — not just because relationships are more complex, but also because more young people are being influenced by factors such as pornography.

Our Watch research identified that nearly half of young men have seen pornography by the age of 13 and nearly half of young women by the age of 15.

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