Bond University


Teaching “sensitive” topics at tertiary level can be described as a “minefield” of potential problems; for example teachers and students may experience feelings of exposure, vulnerability, hurt or offense. The likelihood of encountering problems such as these grows with the size of the group. These problems prevent effective learning. Teachers of sensitive topics need to anticipate such problems and adopt approaches to teaching that minimise the problems: learners are thus protected from the problems that may block effective learning. In the discipline of law there are many topics which are “sensitive”; such topics include cultural legal dynamics, domestic violence law and the law of sexual violation. At the University of Waikato School of Law, the convenor and principal lecturer in the Crimes course took the decision in 1995 to include the law of sexual violation as an optional topic for the first time. This paper engages in the debate regarding the teaching of sensitive topics, and describes and analyses one teacher’s experiences in teaching the law of sexual violation to a large group at tertiary level. The paper identifies barriers to teaching sexual violation, and the approaches adopted to remove the barriers and minimise the problems. The authors contend that the law of sexual violation should be part of the LLB curriculum provided that the topic is taught in a way which ensures effective/protected learning.