Parents, caregivers and family

Working with young people is one of the most effective ways of preventing sexual and dating violence. Research shows that 15-24 year olds are the group most at risk from violence from current and ex-partners.

Why Mates & Dates is needed

Schools are already doing some good work in this area. While many existing programmes increase awareness of sexual and dating violence, they don’t impact behaviour.

How is the programme run?

Mates & Dates is a multi-year programme taught across years 9-13 in one 50-minute session each week for five weeks. Each year’s content is appropriate for that age group.

Trained specialist facilitators teach the sessions using a range of tools and activities. Teachers are present at each session.

What it will teach

Mates & Dates is intended to support and build on young people’s existing relationship skills and teach them about how to have healthy relationships.

It discusses how to negotiate consent for sexual activity as well as how to recognise coercion, and what to do if someone feels pressured to perform a sexual act. It also provides information about the law.

Mates & Dates is not a sex education programme. It does include materials and discussions about sexual and dating violence, consent, dating, relationships, pornography and other related subject matter. However, no explicit materials are used.

How to talk to your son or daughter about sexual and dating violence

Your son or daughter may want to talk to you about what they learn during the Mates & Dates programme. It may give them the courage to talk to you about either their own experiences, or experiences their friends have had.

If that happens, the following guidance will help you to have what could be a difficult conversation:

  • stay calm – they may be very anxious about sharing this information with you or fearful of your reaction
  • let them know that you take them seriously
  • listen to them and ask them what they’d like to do next. They might want you to go with them to talk to a specialist service or counsellor, or they might just want to know you believe them
  • stay open-minded. They might feel judged or guilty. It’s important to show you’re not blaming them
  • tell them you understand how hard it must be for them to talk to you about this and acknowledge their courage
  • ensure their safety – if there is an immediate risk from someone at school or nearby, inform somebody who could help to keep your son or daughter safe. This could include the Police, Child Youth and Family or their school.

Where to go for help

Go to TOAH-NNEST (external site) for information on where to seek help about sexual violence. This includes local specialist services.

For more information about where to seek help about dating violence, and local specialist services, go to It’s not OK.

Following sexual assault or abuse, you can contact ACC’s Sensitive Claims Unit confidentially on 0800 735 566 or visit the website

Family Planning (external site) has a range of resources available as free downloads. Their ‘Open and Honest: A parent’s guide to talking with your child about sex and sexuality’ resource is particularly helpful for parents.

For more information about Mates & Dates email us at

Updated: 26 February 2016

Reviewed: 16 February 2016