June 16, 2015 8:02 pm
Updated: June 16, 2015 8:58 pm

‘WiseGuyz’ sex ed for Grade 9 boys tackles sexual violence

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WATCH ABOVE: Global’s Heather Yourex looks at a unique program developed especially for men to help reduce rates of STIs, domestic violence, and sexual assaults.

CALGARY – A unique Calgary program is tackling issues like rape culture and gender violence by reaching out to male Grade 9 students in the classroom.

A few years ago, Calgary’s Sexual Health Centre noticed a disturbing trend: teen pregnancy rates were down, but STI rates, incidents of domestic violence, and sexual assaults were on the rise. The centre also noticed bullying and homophobia emerging as problems in schools, so they started looking for a solution.

Staff developed a program especially for young men—called “WiseGuyz”—and it’s already starting to have an impact.

“The reality is, is that often when we hear stories about sexual assault, when we hear stories about consent not being understood…unfortunately it’s at the hands of men,” said WiseGuyz coordinator Blake Spence.


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An Alberta Council of Women’s Shelter survey found one in 10 Alberta men believed it was okay to hit a women if she made him angry; a University of Calgary report found every hour, an Alberta woman will experience an act of violence from an ex spouse or partner, and nationally – statistics show 51 per cent of women over the age of 16 have reported being the victim of at least one incident of physical or sexual violence.

READ MORE: Sexual education compared across Canada

So program coordinators Spence and Stafford Perry are trying to plant the seeds of change.

“In piloting the program, we found that Grade 9 was an age where they’re still really receptive – the guards are starting to come up, but they’re still willing to listen,” said Perry.

The program is available at six junior high schools in Calgary, and will be starting at two additional high schools in the fall.

“We try to relate to the guys – we go by a first-name basis,” said Spence. “We let them know that it’s a safe space, they can talk about whatever they’re dealing with at the moment.”

READ MORE: Sex ed – Your stories

The program relies heavily on trust, focusing on topics like pornography, sex, respect, and consent. Coordinators say no question is off limits, and because of that, the conversation continues to have the most benefit.

“I can actually ask and be more honest with them because they will actually give me a straight answer, and they won’t judge me on anything,” said participant Ryan Gloekler.

When asked if he felt like the program has changed him, student Tyson McLean said, “Definitely.”

“Because it just taught me how to be a man, you know?”

For more information on the program, visit the Calgary Sexual Health Centre website here

© 2015 Shaw Media

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