The Department for Education today (14 December 2017) published guidance for schools on how to prevent and respond to rape and sexual violence by children.
This guidance is much needed and long-overdue. It is over a year since the Women and Equalities Select Committee laid out the devastating extent to which girls experience sexual violence and harassment in schools. Now schools have been given some guidance on how to respond.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition is also calling on the government to ensure schools have the resources and funds they need for training and interventions to combat sexual bullying and harassment.
Rachel Krys, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:
“This advice is very welcome and much needed. The problems of sexual violence in schools, particularly against girls, are widespread and persistent. Girls can’t learn when these issues are left unaddressed. It is important that this guidance contains the detail schools need to know how to respond to rape, sexual violence and bullying by other children.
“It is good that the guidance provides clarity on protecting victims of rape and sexual assault from the trauma of going back into the classroom with the alleged perpetrator. Too many girls have been effectively forced out of school because they were expected to sit in the same room as the person raped them.
“Parents and parliamentarians were shocked last year when the Select Committee published its report, few could believe the extent of the problem or the apparent lack of urgency by the government to address it. Over a year on, many will be left asking why it has taken so long for the department with responsibility for ensuring our children are safe at school to produce this guidance.
“We need more action from the government now, including a stream of funding which will enable schools to work with experts on reducing sexual violence and bullying.”
The inquiry found that 5500 sexual offences were recorded in schools over a 3 year period, including 600 rapes. In addition to these disturbingly high levels of rape and sexual violence, the inquiry found girls are subjected to relentless sexual harassment by other children in school:
- Almost a third (29%) of 16-18 year old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school
- Nearly three-quarters (71%) of all 16-18 year old boys and girls say they hear terms such as “slut” or “slag” used towards girls at schools on a regular basis
- 59% of girls and young women aged 13-21 said in 2014 that they had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year.
As long ago as 2010, EVAW published research by YouGov which found that:
- Close to one in three (28%) of 16-18-year-olds say they have seen sexual pictures on mobile phones at school a few times a month or more
- Close to one in four (24%) 16-18-year-olds said that their teachers never said unwanted sexual touching, sharing of sexual pictures or sexual name calling are unacceptable
- 40% of 16-18-year-olds said they didn’t receive lessons or information on sexual consent, or didn’t know whether they did (3).
The Department for Education has also launched a consultation on the statutory guidance it issues to schools about safeguarding. Keeping Children Safe in Education is the core safeguarding document which schools and colleges have to adhere to, so it is important that this guidance is clear on risk of sexual violence and bullying perpetrated by children against others in the school.