On Thursday 14th December 2017, the Department for Education released its 'Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges' guidance.
This comes over a year after the Women & Equalities Select Committee published a report exposing the shocking scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence that is not being tackled effectively in English schools, and Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW), the End Violence Against Women coalition (EVAW), of which RCEW is a member, and other campaigners called for urgent action.
RCEW Trustee and CEO of West Mercia Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre, Jocelyn Anderson said:
"This guidance is a positive first step in addressing how schools and colleges respond to sexual violence, how they can best support victims and prevent further children from being abused by peers.
It is not uncommon for a child to be sat in the same classroom as the person that has raped them, this is incredibly damaging for children and this guidance is, for the first time, giving a clear message that this needs to stop."
The 2016 Women & Equalities Committee report outlined evidence that:
- 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.
Many Rape Crisis Centres already work closely with schools, providing direct support to children and young people who have been raped and/or sexually abused. The range of services they offer includes: Children and Young People's Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ChISVAs), providing emotional and practical support for victims, explaining the child’s options, and giving support throughout the criminal justice process and beyond; Children’s counselling services, providing therapeutic interventions; and educational programmes, which provide education for both staff and students around healthy relationships, consent and clearly defining what sexual violence is.
Rape Crisis now joins EVAW and others in calling on the Government to provide the funds needed for schools and colleges in all areas to work with local experts to ensure the right training and interventions are in place to combat sexual bullying, sexual harassment and sexual violence effectively.
Joceyln Anderson added:
"Schools need support and education on how to tackle sexual violence and develop a ‘whole school approach of ‘no tolerance for any form of sexual violence and sexual harassment. RCEW is committed to continue working with the Department of Education to achieve this."