Tag Archives: consent

Protecting Ourselves

Jackson Katz asks men what they do daily to prevent being raped.  He is often met with silence.  Eventually, one student might say: avoid going to prison. 

He then asks the women the same question.  Immediately hands pop up with responses:

  • Hold keys as a potential weapon;
  • Look in the back seat before getting in the car;
  • Carry a cell phone;
  • Don’t go walking/jogging at night;
  • Lock all the windows when I sleep;
  • Don’t take a ground floor apartment;
  • Own a big dog;
  • Carry mace or pepper spray or a gun;
  • Have a home alarm system;
  • Don’t drink too much, and don’t let my drink out of my sight;
  • Have a buddy system;

And so on and so on.

Teaching our children

These are the messages we pass along to our daughters, teaching them from an early age to be aware of their surroundings, avoid certain areas, walk with a partner and so on.  Universities and Colleges offer workshops for female students to help teach ways to avoid being a victim, including self-defence techniques.  One study determined that only 22 women would need to participate in a rape prevention program to prevent one additional rape from happening that year.

What about boys?

A lot of time, money and energy is spent on helping females to avoid becoming victims.  As a result, females are often the ones held responsible for their participation in sexual activity.  In fact, in one analysis of a scenario, the commentary has focused exclusively on the role of the female since the 1990s, a point the professor continues to make.

How to prevent rape

Recently there are those who have turned the tables and created a list of things men can do to avoid raping. The emphasis in this instance in on the choices males make that could ultimately lead to rape with the encouragement to avoid these behaviours.  Underlying this message is an awareness that men are not helpless victims of their own urges but have the capacity to make better choices that will ultimately protect themselves and those whom they may sexually desire.

What do you think?  What should young people be taught?  How is this different for males and females?  When should this be introduced?  Who should teach it?  Your thoughts are welcomed!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/



My nephews, with whom I am close, were at our last Thrive! Dinner.  As things were wrapping up, I put my arms around the shoulders of one of my nephews and said, maybe next time we will talk about consent.  He looked up and asked “Consent? What’s that?”

I responded, “Well, I should have asked before I put my arms around you.”  With that I put my arms down and then asked if I could put my arms around him, to which he said “yes”.  I then asked if I could hug him and again he said ‘yes’ and we hugged.  “Is that consent?” he asked.  I said “yes and if you said ‘no’ or I didn’t want to, then we wouldn’t hug.”

Family closeness

There is a closeness in some families which is reflected in physical expressions like hugs.  As a result, it becomes natural for us to extend those expressions across generations.  Ours is a family that hugs, when we come together and when we leave and sometimes in between.  It is an expression of our love for one another.  A question to consider, however, is what happens if a child does not want to participate in this custom?

We know it happens.  Sometimes children are grumpy or moody or tired or simply playing shy and don’t want to hug one person or another.  It is easy for us to guilt them into relenting, telling them that they are making grandma sad or their uncle will be mad at them or bribing them into doing what is considered proper.  The goal, of course, is to encourage our children to be part of a tradition that is important to us and reflects the closeness of our family.  When physical expressions of our love for one another are the norm, we don’t necessarily consider alternative messages that might be sent when we try to get children to conform to that tradition.

Teaching Consent

What might happen, however, if when a child is reluctant to participate in these traditions we respect that decision?  What would we be teaching if we said, ‘that’s OK, you don’t have to hug grandpa today if you don’t want to’?  It is true that it may cause someone to feel left out, but it may also help our children understand that they can choose when to participate in hugs, while at the same time learning that it is OK for them, and someone else, to say no and have that decision respected.

Teaching Body Language

Certainly verbal cues provide important insights.  It is also true that before he left, my nephew (and his brother) gave me hugs without anyone asking if it is OK.  This is something we have done for a long time and there was no resistance indicated by anyone.  We are happy to share hugs.

This could create another opportunity to talk about what consent looks like for those people we know well.  Are there ways that we show resistance when we don’t want hugs?  What might happen if someone pushed away or even ran away when it came time to offer hugs?  This too could be a lesson in respecting boundaries and understanding consent.  There are many ways we say ‘yes’ and many ways we say ‘no’.  Recognising all the ways we communicate can impact the ways we come to relate to family, friend and stranger.

What do you think?

How do you recognise consent?  To what extent have you discussed consent in your family? Do you believe that it is important for us to have conversations about consent?  What does that look like for you?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Health Curriculum in Ontario

There seems to be an unending stream of commentaries, opinions and news related to Ontario’s Health curriculum and what will be taught in September.

Why this has become an issue:

Following consultation with the ministry of education, parents, students, teachers, faculties of education, universities, colleges, and organisations including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Healthy Schools Coalition and the Ontario Public Health Association, the Provincial Government of Ontario released a major update to the Health Curriculum in 2015.  This new curriculum included information about mental health, online safety, and bullying as well as information about sex and gender variations and the impact of these on relationships.

Some conservative groups did not like this new curriculum and complained that they hadn’t been adequately consulted in its development.  To appeal to these groups, Doug Ford promised to repeal the curriculum and develop a new one with greater consultation.  Thus, one of the first acts of the newly elected government has been to repeal the 2015 curriculum and ask that boards use the same curriculum that was used in 2014 in the classroom until the new curriculum has been developed.

What is at stake?

The curriculum used in 2014 was actually developed in 1998 – before today’s students were even born.  As further discussed in this post, in the twenty years since that curriculum was introduced:

  • we have seen major shifts in the rights and privileges given to the LGBTQ2+ community;
  • Mental health is gaining in understanding and acceptability;
  • The prevalence of technology and social media has opened the way to new issues including cyber bullying, sexting and phishing which place young people at risk;
  • The #metoo movement has highlighted the importance of learning about consent;
  • Research has shown that children are entering puberty at younger ages than ever before.

These are the realities of students today.  Do we really want to leave it up to the media to give young people the tools they need to navigate this new environment as highlighted in this post.

How are people responding?

A lot has been said about the importance of sex education and updated tools students need to stay safe, feel included and make healthy decisions.  Some have shared their personal experiences including this person who was kept out of sex education and suffered abuse and this father who believes his daughter would be alive today if the updated curriculum were taught in her school.

School boards are also concerned.  As of writing this post, more than 20 school boards across the province have delivered statements highlighting the importance of providing up to date tools to navigate health, sexuality and relationships in today’s world.  In this regard, the Director of the Greater Essex County District School Board, Erin Kelly has stated:

“I assure parents, guardians, staff and community members that, regardless of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum being used, the Board will emphasize respect, inclusion and safety for all. We will continue to celebrate the diversity of all our students, support our LGBTQ community and teach about gender issues and acceptance and educate students on internet safety, cyberbullying and the importance of building and sustaining healthy relationships.” (https://www.publicboard.ca/Board/DirectorsMessage/default.aspx#/view/26)

What next?

There is still a lot of ambiguity around what might be taught in regards to health and physical education in September.  There are strong opinions expressed throughout the province about what should be taught and shouldn’t be taught.  Thrive! is a program which seeks to provide tools to help families navigate through the challenges and struggles of today’s world.  So we want to hear from you.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section and/or join us live on Facebook Tuesday, Aug. 7th at 7pm as we talk with a recent graduate about their thoughts on the health and physical education program.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

What has changed?


“What were phones like in 1998?”  The question from my teenager could have been viewed as another opportunity for a young person to roll their eyes at ‘Stone Age’ technology from the time before they were born.  It could have been, but, in this case the question arose out of a sense of urgency when it was revealed that the new Provincial Government was rolling back the health curriculum twenty years, fulfilling an election promise.

Twenty years may not seem long for some.  In reality, there are many twenty year periods during which there was not significant changes that would require updating school curricula.  The introduction of a new curriculum in 2015, however, suggests that there were at least some people who felt an update was important.  So, what has changed in the last 20 years that might be useful to include in a health curriculum?

The Toronto Star reflected on this in a 2009 article which looks back on the previous decade and identifies 50 significant changes.  Other notable changes that embrace the two decades include:

  • Google was founded in 1998 and became a recognised verb in dictionaries in 2006 as more and more people used this search engine to discover answers to any question they could ask
  • Legalisation of same sex marriage in Ontario on June 10, 2003 and in Canada on July 22, 2005
  • Gender identity and gender expression have been protected from discrimination in Ontario since 2012 and in Canada since 2017
  • In Sept. 2010 “Bell Let’s Talk” began a new conversation about mental health in Canada in an attempt to raise awareness and funds to support programs that address mental illness.
  • Facebook was founded in February 2004, Twitter in March 2006, Instagram in Oct. 2010 and Snapchat in Sept. 2011
  • Cyber bullying has increased significantly with 1 in 5 young people reporting they had experienced cyber-bullying as early as 2014.
  • The death of Jamie Hubley on Oct. 14, 2011 led to the Ontario Legislature mandating school boards across the province develop tougher anti-bullying programs and offered legal protections for gay-straight alliances in the province’s schools.
  • The deaths of Amanda Todd (2012), Rehtaaeh Parsons (2013) and others, highlighted the vulnerability of young people to exploitation and abuse through the Internet.
  • Time’s person of the year for 2017 was “The Silence Breakers” the women whose experiences of sexual violence led to a renewed awareness of the need to better understand boundaries and consent through the #metoo movement.

These are only a snap shot of the significant things that have happened in the last 20 years.

Parents will always be an important resource for children especially in regards to determining morals and values.  With all that has changed, however, I wonder how many parents feel appropriately equipped to address these changes with our children?  How confident do parents feel about talking about health, gender, sexuality, bullying and relationships in an era when there has been such a significant shift in how we communicate and understand who we are?  If schools limited the health and sexuality content to a curriculum that was written 20 years ago, are parents prepared to fill in the gaps so that our children have the tools to effectively navigate relationships, community and sexuality today?  What do you think?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Dress Codes

A reflection on recent events at Essex District High School

Social media is a powerful tool.  We’ve glimpsed its reach as millions took the ice bucket challenge and lamented this power as young people chocked over cinnamon and tide pods.  It has also been used to raise awareness about the struggles and challenges that exist, particularly when questions of fairness and justice arise.

Recently, young people at Essex District High School used social media to complain about the school’s dress code and its implementation.  In fact, the criticism is not new.  There are students around the world, usually females, who are frustrated by the ongoing prevalence of dress codes which they see as unfairly targeting them.

What is it?

Dress codes establish expectations about what is appropriate for students to wear in school.  The dress code for EDHS can be found here.  Certainly it is reasonable to expect all students to be sufficiently clothed in a manner that is respectable and safe.  As our understanding of gender, sexuality and consent continues to evolve, however, people are slowing awaking to the reality that, some of the expectations for females have been established based on the belief that how a female dresses can become distracting for males.  This awareness is compounded by a perception that females are more likely to be disciplined for dress code violations leading to complaints.

Why is this problematic?

Whether we agree or not with the particular complaint for this situation, the fact is these young women have a point as reflected in these comments from a local sexual assault crisis centre.   It is unfair to hold females responsible for the urges of males.  Males are free to dress as they choose, including going topless in the warmer months and wearing pants in such a way that their underwear is clearly visible.  While neither of these is considered appropriate for school, there are no expectations that males should refrain from such apparel in other contexts in order to avoid enticing females.

In contrast, there is a significant commentary on the extent to which women are viewed as dressing ‘provocatively’.  These perceptions have then played out in cases where women are sexually assaulted as suggesting that perhaps the woman was ‘asking for it’ or ‘advertising’ her sexuality.  Such discourse thus requires one gender to consider the impact of their dress on the other while the opposite is not true.

What can parents do?

As the discourse on gender, sexuality and consent continues to unfold, it is important to have conversations with our children regardless of gender.  All children should be taught that their sexual urges are their own responsibility.  All children should have tools to ensure that, if they get distracted, they can refocus their energy.  All children should understand the foundations of respect and consent in regards to bodies.

Conversation is important.  This includes a willingness to listen when issues are raised which call into question long standing social norms.  It will be interesting to see if this current situation will lead to a renewed understanding of the appropriate framework for the dress code at Essex District High School and beyond.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/