A recent report conducted by The Women and Equalities Committee concluded that there is an urgent need for action against the large-scale sexual harassment and sexual violence currently happening in English schools. The report revealed that sexual harassment and sexual abuse of girls is being trivialised as a normal aspect of daily life, and even brushed off as “banter”, by students, teachers and parents.
The report presented the following evidence of the large scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools:
- Almost a third (29%) of 16-18-year-old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school.
- 22% of girls aged 7-12 have experienced jokes of a sexual nature from boys.
- Nearly three quarters (71%) of all 16-18-year-olds (boys and girls) say they hear sexual name-calling with terms such as “slut” or “slag” used towards girls at schools on a daily basis or a few times a week.
Although the sexual harassment and violence in schools affects predominantly girls, with the majority of perpetrators of the abuse being boys, the report emphasises how essential it is that the negative impacts on both genders are recognised and addressed.
The report acknowledges that children often have entrenched views about gender norms by the time they attend secondary school, which supports the report’s indication that if the government intends to tackle “lad culture” at university, it should begin with its work in schools: education is key.
It also revealed that widespread access to pornography seems to be negatively impacting children and young people’s perceptions of sex, relationships and consent, and alarmingly some primary school children are learning about sex and relationships through exposure to ‘hard’ pornography.
The report made the following conclusions:
- The government should make it obligatory in the new Education Bill for every school to take action to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence.
- Ofsted must assess and monitor schools on how well they are recording, preventing and responding to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and how well they are supporting survivors.
- Every primary and secondary school must provide high quality, age-appropriate relationships and sex education (SRE) delivered by well-trained individuals, which must be a compulsory subject for all students. Better and earlier education is key to tackling sexual harassment and abuse in schools.
- There is a clear need and desire for better training to support school staff in addressing the issue of sexual harassment and sexual violence. The report recommends that this is included in the Initial Teacher Training.
Equation fully support these recommendations. We run projects across Nottingham city and county that aim to ensure that young people are aware that the sexual violence and abuse that they may experience is not ‘normal’ or ‘banter’ – it is illegal, and they have the right to speak out about it. It is also important to help survivors to rebuild their self-confidence.
We also provide training to teachers and other members of school staff, to enable them to understand the causes and effects of domestic violence in order to properly support the young people they work with.
You can read more about sexual violence in schools in survivors’ own words here.
If you are a woman experiencing abuse you can call the local Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 800 0340.
If you are a child or young person experiencing domestic abuse you can call Childline on 0800 1111 or talk to them online.
If you are a man experiencing domestic abuse you can call Equation’s domestic abuse service for men on 0115 960 5556.
If you are in immediate danger, call 999.