March 3, 2021

Rector’s eNews – 03 March 2021

/ Rector's eNews

In our assemblies, we often congratulate those who have excelled in the academic or cultural spheres or in sport and celebrate their success. Sometimes we focus on the rules we need to follow so that our school community works really cohesively and sometimes we look outside the school bubble to other matters which have special relevance to us. On Monday I engaged with the boys about a matter which I have mentioned before and is certainly not linked to any recent issue in the school. In October 2019, after a UCT female student had been raped and murdered in Cape Town, our A Block boys organised a silent protest in the Main Quad. Their protest, which mirrored other similar protests elsewhere, was to express their horror at the violence towards women in our society. By implication, our boys were clearly also publicly stating that they would never participate in what is now called gender-based violence. Very recently the issue of rape being a major problem in our South African society was raised in the media again and, though statistics are difficult to verify partially because of unreported instances of this crime, the estimation that a rape occurs every 26-36 seconds every day in this country is deeply shocking. Another source estimates that one in every three women in our society has been or will be raped in their lifetimes. I am sure that we are all astounded and horrified by those statistics.

It is even more distressing to know that the majority of sexual violence and rapes or attempted rapes are carried out by people who are known to the victim, rather than by strangers. Lives can be wrecked by sexual and other forms of violence and the experience for the victims is almost always traumatic.

So what do we do with this knowledge and what are the international standards which are promoted amongst young people such as our boys on the matter of consent in a relationship? I have recently been on a programme conducted by the International Boys’ School Coalition (IBSC) with other Heads in the United States, Canada and Australia on the world standard in this regard and what is being taught as acceptable and unacceptable conduct to teenage boys and accepted by men worldwide.

There are five aspects to the notion of consent and, though this was a difficult topic to address in an assembly, I felt it important to do so. Consent by another person should, firstly, be freely given. Secondly, it should be reversible; in other words, what may be accepted today may not be okay tomorrow. Thirdly, it should be informed; in other words, a person who might be drunk is not able to give consent because they can’t do so in those circumstances. Fourthly, it should be enthusiastic; in other words, a person should not be threatened or under duress. Fifthly, it should be specific – that is to what is wanted and what is not wanted.

So the acronym FRIES, should be the basis for an understanding by our boys of the difficult notion of consent which must be freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific.

As I said to our boys, if they follow those guidelines they should be able to feel happy that they have conducted themselves in a way which chimes well with the boys who held the silent protest in October 2019 and, in doing so, committed themselves to acting in a way which does not violate others.

Our School Counsellor, Tim Jarvis, co-ordinates our tutoring programme and this topic will be taken up at a later stage in the year in our tutor groups. It is a difficult, but important, matter for boys to assimilate.


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