Youth Perspectives on Identifying and Responding to Gender-Based Violence in the Classroom


On November 29, 2023, Ophea hosted a webinar in partnership with the Ontario Coalition for Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC)’s Draw the Line Campaign (#DTL16Days). Moderated by Ophea’s Curriculum Consultant Andrea Haefele (she/her), Youth Perspectives on Identifying and Responding to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) brought the OCRCC’s Trish Vanoosterom (she/her) and youth participants Yumi Lee (she/her) and Jasmine Lew (she/they) for an important discussion highlighting youth voice and opening a dialogue with both elementary and secondary educators about manifestations of gender-based violence in the classroom. Attendees received support and tools intended to equip them to receive disclosures, recognize trauma responses, and practice bystander intervention using a trauma-informed lens. The session also established connections between GBV, GBV prevention education, and the Health and Physical Education (H&PE) curriculum.

In consideration of ongoing public discourse threatening the rights of transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse students in Ontario schools, this session also explored how to identify and respond to manifestations of transphobia. Transphobia refers to fear and/or hatred of any transgression of perceived gender norms, often exhibited by namecalling, bullying, exclusion, prejudice, discrimination or acts of violence—anyone who is trans and/or gender diverse (or who is perceived to be) can be the target of transphobia.

Meet the Panelists

Jasmine Lew (she/they), MSc in Kinesiology Candidate at the University of Toronto

Jasmine’s research is on decolonizing embodied learning and leadership for racialized womxn. She is a research assistant with the Indigeneity, Diaspora, Equity, Anti-racism in Sport (IDEAS) Research Lab. They are on research advisory committees to amplify queer, racialized and other border perspectives. Jasmine is also the Lead Captain and long jumper on the Varsity Blues Track and Field Team. Beyond school and sport, they volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters Toronto, enjoy fabric crafts, and spend most of their time reading in coffee shops.

Yumi Lee (she/her), Concurrent education (Kinesiology) student at York University, Co-founder of York Skateboarding Academy and Co-director of Queer Skate Toronto

Yumi is a queer, biracial, woman who loves skateboarding, rock climbing and making art. She is currently enrolled in the concurrent education program at York University, majoring in Kinesiology, and strives to have a career in teaching. She is co-founder of and instructor at York Skateboarding (@yorkskateboarding), and co-director of Queer Skate Toronto (@queerskatetoronto). Yumi strives to make traditionally heteronormative spaces safer and more inclusive.

Trish Vanoosterom (she/her), Public Education Coordinator Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre Sarnia – Lambton

Trish has been working in the field of GBV for over 15 years, 13 of which have been with the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre. She provides individual support to survivors of sexual harm and facilitates prevention workshops for folks of all ages. Trish has been active in providing bodily autonomy discussions, consent, self-esteem and healthy relationships in various schools throughout Lambton County. When not working, she can be found walking her dog and enjoying nature and the serene views of Lake Huron.

Webinar Recap: Youth Perspectives on Identifying and Responding to Gender-Based Violence in the Classroom

Gender-based violence includes any form of behaviour – including psychological, physical, and sexual behaviour – that is undertaken on the basis an individual’s gender and is intended to control, humiliate, or harm the individual. Structural systems, such as racism, misogyny, and transphobia, inform the ways that GBV manifests and impacts individuals.

Consider the following…

  • One in three girls or women1 and one in six boys or men2 will experience some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime. 
  • Transgender folks are more likely to experience violence since the age of 15 than their cisgender peers4. 
  • Girls and women under the age of 25 experience higher rates of sexual assault and criminal harassment than women above that age1 
  • Girls and women with disabilities are four times more likely than girls and women without disabilities to experience gender-based violence1 
  • Indigenous women are three times more likely than other women to experience all forms of violence1 
  • Less than 10% of sexual assaults are reported to police1 
  • Approximately 80–95% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows1. 

When the widespread, insidious nature of GBV is understood, it becomes clear that educators and other school community members share a responsibility to meaningfully identify and respond when it occurs in learning environments. While intervention is a crucial aspect of GBV prevention education efforts, our panelists emphasized that it is equally important to encourage long-term cultural shifts by raising awareness of GBV and working with students to co-create learning environments that are safe, affirming, and inclusive for every student!

How might students experience gender-based violence within schools and learning environments?

Common examples of GBV within schools and/or learning environments include verbal humiliation (teasing), constant criticism, gaslighting, and misgendering. Escalations of GBV, including intimidation, assault, and/or blackmail, can also occur. All instances of GBV must be treated seriously, as normalizing harm contributes to further escalations.

What strategies can be implemented to remove the stigma of being a survivor of GBV?

Make the topic of GBV and/or transphobia normalised in your classroom, so that when it happens students feel less stigma and more safety in coming to you for support. By having open conversations year-round with students about how their words and actions affect others, you can increase awareness of GBV and empower students to make a difference in their school community through safe, effective bystander intervention strategies.

Are there knowledge gaps when it comes to the convergence of education and GBV, specifically in connection with transphobia?

Historically, an adherence to the gender binary in H&PE and similar fields has exacerbated research gaps that render trans identities invisible in these environments. This lack of representation can contribute to transphobia and other kinds of GBV in H&PE learning environments.

Educators can bridge this gap by creating environments that amplify marginalized experiences from women, queer and trans folks, and other intersectional voices. Establishing a culture of respect and affirmation where all identities are celebrated creates atmospheres of compassion and understanding, where GBV is less likely to go unaddressed.

What is the role of adult members of a school community when working to disrupt the cultural attitudes that inform GBV?

When adult members of the school community receive the necessary tools and resources to engage students in appropriate, ongoing conversations about GBV from a young age, students are empowered to recognize harmful attitudes and behaviours before they escalate. Modeling a trauma-informed, consent-based culture in the classroom can support students in understanding healthy relationships. 

To support marginalized students, many of whom are at greater risk to experience GBV, consider independently expanding your own understanding of their unique identities and any related terminology. Not only does this demonstrate allyship and solidarity to marginalized students, but it also ensures that you can recognize and disrupt harmful narratives. 

Educators deserve evidence-informed trainings and PD opportunities that are updated, relational, and embodied to assist them in effectively supporting every student. Egale’s Still In Every Class In Every School (2021) report found that 79% of trans students who had been the victims of physical harassment reported that teachers and staff were ineffective in addressing transphobic harassment. Remember – you’re not alone! Take advantage of local sexual assault centres and other organizations, many of whom are well equipped to provide either classroom education or PD sessions focused on aspects of GBV!

Funding support for this webinar was provided by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Office of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity within the Government of Ontario. Ophea thanks all our panelists and webinar attendees for participating in such an important discussion! Seeking resources to bring these conversations into your classroom? Refresh your understanding of fundamental principles by completing Ophea’s Gender-Based Violence Prevention Education module. Then, explore Ophea’s Gender-Based Violence Prevention Education Resources, or additional resources from our DTL Partner Organizations.

Draw the Line resources:  

  • Draw the an interactive campaign that aims to engage Ontarians in a dialogue about sexual violence. The campaign challenges common myths about sexual violence and equips bystanders with information on how to intervene safely and effectively. The campaign includes downloadable posters, postcards, and user guides.  
  • Draw the Line Videos: Video resources on bystander intervention.  
  • Publications Ontario: Order hardcopy Draw the Line resources at no cost.  

Egale Canada resources: 

Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres resources:  

Ophea resources: 

White Ribbon resources: 

  • Drawing the Line on Sexual Violence: A Guide for Ontario Educators Grades 1-8: produced by White Ribbon, this guide provides information and ready to use lesson plans on topics relating to gender based and sexual violence. This guide is for elementary age students in grades 1-8. 
  • Drawing the Line on Sexual Violence: A Guide for Ontario Educators Grades 9-12: produced by White Ribbon, this guide provides information and ready to use lesson plans on topics relating to gender based and sexual violence.  This guide is for elementary age students in grades 9-12. 
  • WRPrevent: produced in partnership between White Ribbon and the government of Ontario, this resource provides educator resources and lesson plans relating to ending child sexual exploitation.   
  • WR Draw the Line resources: Draw the Line resources for elementary, secondary, and post-secondary students to encourage them to start having conversations on consent culture, healthy relationships, and healthy masculinities. 
  • 6 Easy Ways to Take Action: Learn more about how you can play a role and prevent sexual violence in your community.
  • Let’s Redefine Masculinity:  Learn through White Ribbon’s manbox video about the characteristics that we usually put in the "box" of what it means to be a man in our society and the importance of promoting healthy masculinities.

Thank you to our friends at the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, Egale, Draw The Line, White Ribbon, and Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes for collaborating with Ophea in the Draw The Line Partner Series.

Let’s keep the conversation going! Share with us how you’re using Ophea’s Gender-Based Violence Prevention Education Resources as conversation starters in your class and school by tagging @OpheaCanada on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and Instagram. To stay up-to-date on Ophea professional learning offerings, resources, and supports sign up for Ophea’s e-newsletter eConnection.


1. From the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) website: Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centre (2020). Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres.  

2. From the 1in6 website: 1in6. (2020). Get Information: The 1 in 6 Statistic. 1in6.   

3. From the Canadian Mental Health Association website: Canadian Mental Health Association. (2020, February). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer identified People and Mental Health. Ontario CMHA.…; 

4. From the Statistics Canada website: Statistics Canada. (2020, September). Experiences of violent victimization and unwanted sexual behaviours among gay, lesbian, bisexual and other sexual minority people, and the transgender population, in Canada, 2018. Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics. 

5. Peter, T., Campbell, C.P., & Taylor, C. (2021). Still in every class in every school: Final report on the second climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools. Key Takeaways. Toronto, ON: Egale Canada Human Rights Trust.