In this age of #MeToo and the global fight to raise awareness of sexual assaults on women and girls, it seems absurd that this battle hasn’t infiltrated into our schools. The press has repeatedly reported on the fact that the number of peer on peer sexual assaults in schools has risen dramatically and yet the issue is still not being dealt with effectively.
With her GCSE’s imminent, my daughter hasn’t attended school for over two months after having been forced to continue to share a classroom with a boy who sexually assaulted her and numerous other girls. Despite 6 different girls reporting his unwanted sexual behaviour the appropriate punishment was deemed to be 2 days in isolation, the same punishment as a girl who slapped another girl.
To ‘help’ the girls, the school concluded that separating them at break and lunch was a good judgement call. The girls segregated from normal school life away from the friends and peers whilst the boy who forcibly stuck his tongue down their throat or tried to get his hands down their tights and grabbed their crotch had the liberty to roam the school at will. It took a month and parental pressure to reverse that decision.
With known incidents of unwanted sexual behaviour dating back to primary school and numerous other girls effected, the rules imposed by the school were ‘do not give us names of other victims…they have to come to us through their own volition’ and ‘do not discuss this matter with anyone one else in school’. If the girls had not talked to each other in the first place they would not have found the courage to report this behaviour. By silencing them they are guilty of perpetuating the behaviours we should be working together to eradicate.
We all have a part to play in bringing about the change so desperately needed. I urge all parents to talk to their children about consent and inappropriate sexual behaviour. Empower them to take a stand against unwanted sexual attention and instil a sense of responsibility in boys and girls to respect the bodies of others and of themselves. Hold your schools accountable when needed and don’t allow them shut you down and silence you when they are failing your children. We need to continue to work together to stop this escalating epidemic. Please share this and keep the conversations alive.