A program for Northern Beaches children addressing the issues of domestic and family violence and sexual assault is calling out for donations to reach more local schools.
Love Bites is a free Respectful Relationships Education Program for young people across Australia aged 15-17 years. It consists of two interactive workshops: one on relationship violence, and one on sex and relationships, followed by creative workshops and community campaigns.
The program has been facilitated locally by Community Northern Beaches since 2018, employing specially-trained facilitators to visit local schools. During some sessions up to 200 students participate in the program at a time.
Community Northern Beaches General Manager Craig Stevens said the program aims to reach every school student across the area, however the partially state-funded program currently falls short due to limits in the available funding.
Mr Stevens said he is hopeful the importance of protecting young people from harm will inspire locals to dig deep and make a donation to take the program further towards its goals.
“Respectful Relationships Education is a key means of delivering primary prevention programs to young people, to ensure that young people can enjoy relationships that are free from violence and abuse and to achieve generational change in a societal level in the attitudes, norms and behaviours that support or condone gender-based violence,” he said.
“We have a goal of reaching every high school on the Northern Beaches by the end of 2023, to see a generation of boys, girls all educated to respect one another and see zero domestic and family violence and sexual assault on the Northern Beaches – but we need more local support through donations to get there.”
Mr Stevens said the program requires a further $200,000 to achieve the goal by hiring more facilitators to deliver it across local schools.
The Australian Institute of health and Welfare’s 2020 survey found that almost 2 million Australian adults had experienced at least one sexual assault since the age of 15.
The survey also found:
- More than 200,000 (1.1%) Australian adults had experienced sexual assault in the 12 months before the survey—an increase from 2012 (0.7%)
- Around 639,000 Australian women experienced their most recent incident of sexual assault perpetrated by a male in the last 10 years.
The Love Bites program aims to equip young people with the knowledge needed to have respectful relationships, encourage and develop their skills in critical thinking and assist them in being able to problem solve and communicate effectively.
Love Bites facilitators include sexual assault workers, domestic violence workers, youth workers and police liaison officers.
Jan Schatz, area coordinator for Love bites Northern Beaches and Lower North Shore, said demand for the program is growing and as students who have received the program have responded well, she is urging locals to dig deep and show their support through donations.
“We have an exercise where we draw a line on the floor and ask where they stand on a certain issue. It is really great to see some of the peers challenge on some of the issues such as if you drink too much and get sexually assaulted is it your fault? And we ask, well what do you think? Move to one side of the line,” Ms Schatz said.
“The program really unpacks the idea that there is more than just physical abuse. There’s emotional, mental, gaslighting, coercive control, financial abuse, cyber stalking. Sometimes it’s things that they’ve never been exposed to before, but they really get a lot out of the program.
“This is exactly what students need to identify red flags in their relationship or family and where to access support. So it would be great if we could have more funding support.”