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How to talk about violence and sexuality?

Domestic violence, bullying, romantic relationships and similar topics are complex and sensitive. In order for students to be willing to discuss them, it is necessary to create a favourable atmosphere and be prepared for various reactions.


A teacher or other educator should set a positive tone and create a safe atmosphere, explaining that opinions may differ, but it is important to maintain respect. To prevent students from being afraid to share their opinions, personal experiences and feel more confident, young people can be asked to tell how they feel to talk about it at the beginning of the conversation. Additional tools, such as illustrations or colours that reflect different emotional states, can be used to help students choose the one that works best for them, with a brief comment on their choice. It could help to open up conversations in a safe way.

It is also possible to introduce clear rules of conduct that everyone without exception should follow during the conversation or discussion. The agreement may include the following rules:

  • speak one by one;
  • respect a different opinion;
  • not to rush the speaker, to give him space to speak;
  • do not use a mobile phone during the activity;
  • actively comment, discuss, ask questions;
  • allow the right to stop (the right not to share, stop or leave the room if there is a negative emotional response from those around you or yourself);
  • maintain sensitivity and show empathy.

All life circumstances are different and school staff may not know everything – one of the participants may have experienced violence. Therefore, when discussing topics with students that may touch their emotions and remind them of personal experiences, it is recommended to exercise the right to stop and stop sharing thoughts or stories, to stop, to withdraw from anxiety or panic without a detailed explanation of the origin of such emotions. Allow to leave the room. Before starting any activity, students should be reminded that no one is required to share the details of their personal lives and discuss the events they have experienced if they do not want to do it.

Students do not always respond appropriately to discussions on these issues – there may be attempts to joke or replicate. Efforts should be made to prevent such interventions or to stop bullying immediately so that more vulnerable students are not affected.


When women are referred to as victims and men as perpetrators, students, like adults, may point out that this presentation of roles in the context of domestic violence is predominant. For girls, the role of victim may be unfamiliar, and boys may be dissatisfied with such generalization of men. The hostile reaction is normal, but it is important to set out why gender-based violence in the immediate environment is being discussed at this angle.

It is always worth asking students what would happen if gender roles were reversed. Such an approach can help to understand that the experiences of girls and boys in both Platonic and romantic relationships are very different. Not only are women more likely to suffer from gender-based violence, but they are also more likely to experience extreme forms of violence that have long-term effects on mental and physical health and, in extreme cases, death.

It must be made clear to students that no violence is justified, regardless of who uses it. Perpetrators are not just men and not all men are perpetrators – women’s violence against men is also recorded, and gender-based violence also occurs in same-sex couples. Emphasizing men’s violence against women is important because it is a global problem, and knowledge of the characteristics of domestic violence can help to better understand the techniques of perpetrators, change their attitudes and challenge stereotypes surrounding violence. It is also important to note that gender-based violence also occurs in same-sex couples.