Children’s rights and teachers’ responsibilities: reproducing or transforming the cultural taboo on child sexual abuse?
Enhancing young learners’ knowledge about appropriate and inappropriate sexual behaviour is crucial for the protection of children’s rights. This article discusses teachers’ understandings of their practices and approaches to the topic of child sexual abuse in Norwegian upper secondary schools, based on phone interviews with 64 social science teachers. Countering child sexual abuse is a political priority for the Norwegian government, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child acknowledges several state initiatives to counter child sexual abuse through education. Nevertheless, this study finds that teachers do not address this topic adequately, indicating that cultural taboos regarding talking about and thus preventing such abuse, including rape among young peers, still prevail in Norwegian classrooms. Furthermore, emotional obstacles, including concerns about re-traumatising and stigmatising learners, hinder some teachers from addressing this topic thoroughly. Additional explanatory factors include heavy teacher workloads, little preparation in teacher education programmes, insufficient information in textbooks, and an ambiguous national curriculum.
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