By Chris Gray
Working with young people to raise awareness on issues like consent & healthy relationships is a vital part of preventing sexual violence. As a social work practitioner, and a researcher, I have a great deal of experience in working with young people and have had many interesting and healthy debates about consent and sexual relationships. There are very few descriptors for sexual acts I haven’t heard (this is not a cue to send some in!). But our practice to prevent sexual violence needs to be guided by clear frameworks and solid evidence, and whilst we may have the intuitive skills to support young people, we do not always have have the underpinning resources and guidance to support our work. It is for this reason that
I welcome the launch of a new publication by the Scottish Government to support practitioners in providing the best possible support to young people in building healthy relationships, grounded in an understanding of positive consent.
The key messages on healthy relationships and consent have been developed as part of the Scottish Government’s work on supporting positive relationships and sexual wellbeing in young people. The messages set out that relationships should be mutually respectful, consensual, positive, healthy and enjoyable. They apply to all romantic relationships – from those that are about holding hands to those where young people are sexually active, regardless of whether they are in same sex or mixed sex relationships.
The messages are intended for professionals who work with young people (described here as being secondary age to young adult) using their own professional judgement to determine when the messages are age and stage appropriate for the young person or people with whom they are working. For some young people, these messages will communicate information that will be of use to them in the future. For others, the information will be pertinent right now, to help them negotiate their relationships and identify when their own, or others’, behaviour is non-consensual, abusive or unhealthy. A further publication addressing work with young children is set to follow.