One in three young women have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school, according to a new report.
The report, conducted by the Women and Equalities Committee, found a ‘widespread’ scale of sexual harassment throughout UK schools. The report also revealed that 71 per cent of all 16-18 year old boys and girls said they hear terms such as ‘slut’ or ‘slag’ used towards girls on a regular basis.
In 2014, 59 per cent of young women aged between 13 and 21 had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college within the past year.
The report also found ‘alarming’ inconsistencies in how schools and colleges deal with sexual harassment. It highlighted a lack of guidance for teachers while those working in schools warned that sexual harassment and violence was often being accepted as the norm by both staff and students.
Maria Miller, chair of the committee said, “Our inquiry has revealed a concerning picture. We have heard girls talk about sexual bullying and abuse as an expected part of their everyday life; with teachers accepting sexual harassment as “just banter”; and parents struggling to know how they can best support their children.”
“It is difficult to explain why any school would allow girls to be subjected to sexual harassment and violent behaviour that has been outlawed in the adult workplace.”
“The evidence shows it is undermining the confidence of young women.”
“Failing to reinforce what is acceptable behaviour could well be fuelling the ‘Lad Culture’ that the Government has already identified as a problem in colleges and universities.”
The committee is now calling for the introduction of clear guidance for schools to prevent and deal with sexual harassment; a statutory requirement for age appropriate sex education; more funding made available to research how best to support boys to be part of the solution; and schools and police to collect specific data to be published publically.
Many have already spoken out about the need for more to be done about sexual harassment and the culture surrounding it.
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said, “The Government is failing young people. The report reveals a ‘postcode lottery’ in how schools are dealing with sexual harassment and violence, and a lack of guidance and support for teachers.”
“I don’t want my children growing up in an education system that fails to teach them the most basic of lessons: to show respect, and to understand consent.”
“We called on Theresa May to make age-appropriate sex and relationship education (SRE) compulsory in all primary and secondary schools when she took office in July, as part of our 100 days of May campaign.”
“This call is now getting louder as others join with us – and it is more urgent than ever. The Prime Minister must act.”
A spokesperson for Girlguiding’s Advocate panel said, “As young women, many of us are still in school and experience or witness sexual harassment from groping to cat calling on a daily basis.”
“It is humiliating and frightening and affects what we wear, where we go, our body image and our confidence to speak out in class. Yet, it’s often dismissed as ‘banter’ or a ‘compliment’ and we are told we are overreacting or being over sensitive.”
Supporting the committee’s calls, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) added, “The NUT welcomes the Women and Equalities Committee focus on the issue of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools. It is an issue that many teachers tell us needs addressing.”