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Sexual Violence Prevention in Schools

Friday, May 20, 2016 - 14:40

Taking a Stand: Working together to prevent sexual violence and harassment in schools

Guest Written by: Clara Vaz, White Ribbon Campaign

What we see and learn as children stays with us as adults. Sexism, gender inequality, homophobia, violence against girls and women are all tied to how we are socialized from a young age to accept views of masculinity that have harmful impacts. How do we engage students in sexual violence prevention? What language do we use? What stories do we tell? How do we speak directly to students in a way that resonates with them and translates into action? After the Ontario government released its 2015 Health and Physical Education (H&PE) Curriculum and released its subsequent Action Plan to stop sexual violence and harassment, White Ribbon saw a powerful opportunity to increase knowledge, raise awareness and build capacity around sexual violence prevention in elementary and secondary schools across Ontario.

Using White Ribbon resources from Draw the Line and the It Starts With You Campaign, and working closely with our partners Ophea, OSSTF and ETFO, our goal is to provide tools, language and resources to educators in English and French that they can use with their students, from JK all the way through Grade 12. An initial distribution of materials will begin in September 2016. From White Ribbon’s programming, we know that conversations about emotions, consent, relationships, gender identity and sex begin at an early age, and often arise in schools: in the halls, classrooms, locker rooms and in the playground, with far-reaching effects into our communities and families. How can educators be proactive in engaging boys in learning, and how can they intervene at crucial times for truly teachable moments?

White Ribbon’s Draw the Line Campaign presents secondary school students with scenarios that they will undoubtedly encounter. The campaign aims to spark a dialogue by challenging common myths and providing information on ways to intervene safely and effectively when these situations arise. We’re happy to be working with elementary educators to adapt our materials to this sector to complement the new H&PE Curriculum.

It Starts With You, It Stays With Him inspires men to promote healthy, equal relationships with the boys in their lives. How can coaches, teachers, principals and community members help young boys to understand the meaning and importance of boundaries, consent, and communication and give value and respect to people of all genders? By demonstrating healthy and positive relationships, educators set examples for the younger people in their lives. E-learning modules, online resources and powerful videos and images help educators empower young boys in fostering a respectful culture with their peers.

White Ribbon will also be working with educators to develop a powerful guide alongside bilingual regional trainings that will help bring the materials to life in schools and instill confidence in their use. We’ll be working closely with Ophea, OSSTF and ETFO to ensure that all schools receive the support they need to use these materials as widely as possible.

White Ribbon is the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls, promote gender equality, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity. We seek to challenge language, behaviours and the harmful ideas of manhood that lead to violence against women. Men and boys are uniquely placed to transform the strict masculinities that can be so harmful, becoming positive role models and allies in the prevention of sexual violence.


This May, Ophea launched a new project called: Campaign Messengers: Taking a stand! The prevention of sexual violence and harassment. As part of this project, Ophea is looking for students and teachers from 105 schools in Ontario (elementary and secondary, English and French) to participate in training and to organize sexual violence and harassment prevention activities in their schools during the 2016/17 school year.

Activities could include bringing in guest speakers to speak at assemblies, putting up Draw-the-Line posters in the school or asking their peers to sign a pledge to get engaged and not be a bystander. Participating schools will have the opportunity to receive training from key experts in the field and to share their stories and experiences with like-minded people committed to changing a culture that condones and perpetuates sexual violence.

Working with new partners like the White Ribbon Campaign, Draw-the-Line, and Égale Canada is a unique opportunity for Ophea to build on the success of its health lessons and resources and expand these conversations beyond H&PE and into the rest of the school.

Funding provided by the Government of Ontario.

If you’re interested in learning more about this project or to sign up, please visit: