Campaigners push for government to make domestic abuse education mandatory for older teenagers

The petition calls on the government to make education about domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour mandatory for all young people aged 16-19.
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Domestic abuse campaigners are calling on the government to make education on coercive control and violent relationships mandatory for all 16 to 19 year olds.

Survivor-led campaign Make it Mandatory and domestic abuse charity Refuge delivered a petition with over 90,000 signatures to Downing Street on Valentine’s Day calling on politicians to act now.

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The campaigners also posed for photos with a giant Valentine’s Day card outside the Houses of Parliament.

Campaigners from Make it Mandatory pose with a giant Valentine’s Day card outside the Houses of Parliament. Credit: Stacey OsborneCampaigners from Make it Mandatory pose with a giant Valentine’s Day card outside the Houses of Parliament. Credit: Stacey Osborne
Campaigners from Make it Mandatory pose with a giant Valentine’s Day card outside the Houses of Parliament. Credit: Stacey Osborne

The campaign follows a week of horrifying stories of violence against women and girls, including the sentencing of serial rapist David Carrick, a Met Police officer who committed crimes for 17 years before he was stopped, and the murder of headteacher Emma Pattison and her seven-year-old daughter Lettie, who were believed to have been shot dead by their husband and father, who then killed himself.

A card with a thorned rose wrapped in barbed wire featured a message directed at Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan, calling for her to take steps to include domestic abuse in the RSE curriculum where it is currently lacking.

“This was a campaign set up by my close friend Faustine, who had been in a very abusive relationship at the age of 16,” Jasmine Melendez, a member of the Make it Mandatory campaign told LondonWorld.

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“It was a very vulnerable period in her life and she felt that had she been given the right education at that age she may have been able to see more warning signs and receive better support.

“She set up this petition and in July she invited myself and a group of young people from Oxford to join her to campaign for the government to make education on domestic abuse and coercive control mandatory for the age of 16 to 19 because at present it is not a requirement for sixth forms and colleges to teach about domestic abuse.”

Polling conducted by Opinium for Refuge last year found that only half (50%) of young people had received education on domestic abuse and controlling or coercive behaviour during years 7 – 11 of secondary school, despite this being mandatory since 2020.

The number of 16-19 year olds who said they had received or were due to receive this education at their sixth form or further education college fell to less than half (47%).

Ruth Davidson, CEO of Refuge. Credit: Stacey OsbourneRuth Davidson, CEO of Refuge. Credit: Stacey Osbourne
Ruth Davidson, CEO of Refuge. Credit: Stacey Osbourne
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“Us partnering with Make it Mandatory is really important as what they are doing is trying to prevent this abuse from happening in the first place,” Ruth Davidson, CEO of Refuge told LondonWorld.

“If, when you are 16 to 19 and in one of your first relationships you know what to expect of yourself and what to expect and tolerate from your partner.

“You can stop domestic abuse occuring and that’s the only way we’re going to make a difference to the horrendous stories we see all over the news.

“At the moment Refuge is also working on the Online Safety Bill and that links to this campaign.

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“We’re seeing particularly amongst school age children a real rise in misogyny driven by online influencers who make their livings and significant incomes promoting misogynistic hate filled messages towards women and girls.

“They normalise the kinds of abuse that we then end up picking the pieces up from so we’d like to see the Online Safety Bill offer specific protection to women and girls as well as that’s so essential.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Domestic violence is a horrific crime. To help children and young people learn about healthy relationships early on we have made age-appropriate Relationship, Sex, and Health Education (RSHE) lessons in schools compulsory, so that by the time they leave school they are familiar with these challenging issues.

“Schools and post-16 providers should be alert to issues such as everyday sexism, misogyny, and gender stereotypes and take positive action to build a culture where these are not tolerated, and any occurrences are identified and tackled.

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“We will be publishing further non-statutory guidance later this year to provide practical advice on how to create a whole-school culture of respectful relationships, and how to teach about sexual harassment, sexual violence and violence against women and girls.”

You can sign the Make it Mandatory petition here.