- 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
This report examines sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools and its impact on children and young people aged up to 18 years old. Our recommendations focus on preventing harassment and violence. We recognise that throughout puberty young people are grappling with their sexuality and it is inevitable that this will manifest itself at school. But this is no reason to accept sexual harassment or abuse as part of school life. It is essential that schools support young people and ensure that they provide safe environments for all students to learn in.
The report details both quantitative and qualitative data, including testimonies from young people, teachers and other school staff. Reported by one staff member is the impact of technology, and the lack of adequate response to such negative behaviours:
“I have had many young girls sobbing and humiliated in my office because partially naked images have gone viral. I have seen girls being threatened with those images going viral if they chose not to perform sexual acts on a boy. I have seen girls have to leave school because of the bullying they received from their naked images going viral.”
The normalisation of sexual harassment
Within the report it is highlighted that sexual harassment and sexual violence are unfortunately normalised and sometimes dismissed. Boys’ behaviour towards girls is often excused with a simple “boys will be boys” remark, or as ‘just teasing’.
One girl explained the experiences she has had at school, saying that while girls who experience such harassment or violence are “upset or less confident” by what has happened, boys often dismiss their own actions as “just having a bit of fun”. In addition, the report notes that this normalisation of harassment and abuse makes it “less likely that victims will identify behaviour as abusive and are therefore unlikely to report it.”
Young people told the Committee that sexual harassment has become a normal part of school life with “calling women bitches and stuff like that… a common thing that you see in school, on a daily basis really.” This view was supported by evidence from Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism Project who described sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools as “a widespread, regular and common problem [and] something that the majority of girls are experiencing.”
— Women&EqualitiesCtte (@Commonswomequ) September 13, 2016