Sexual abuse, bullying and harassment in schools has an answer – better sex education

Hannah Brisbane writes in The Scotsman that school should be a safe place for everyone. But for many girls across the UK this just isn’t the case. The reason? Sexual harassment and sexist bullying in schools.

Some people might be surprised to learn this issue affects so many girls’ day to day lives. Others might look back on their school days and not be surprised at all.

Girlguiding research found that more than half (59 per cent) of girls had experienced some form of sexual harassment such as sexist comments and unwanted touching while at school. Three -quarters of girls said anxiety around sexual harassment affects their life in some way, with a quarter saying it makes them less likely to speak up in class.

Together with Girlguiding members in England and Wales, my peers and I are calling for urgent action to make every girl feel safe and happy at school. During this campaign I’ve heard some really shocking stories from my peers – of hearing crude comments about their bodies and clothing, being surrounded and intimated in the corridor, and of being cat-called and even groped as they walk to class.

And, perhaps even more disturbing, was that when girls spoke up about their experiences their peers and even teachers told them this behaviour was just a part of life, that “boys will be boys”, and that the best thing to do is brush it off or even see harassment as a compliment.

This attitude is failing all young people – boys and girls. For boys it sends out the message that this is way they are meant to behave; that harassing girls and making crude comments is what real men do. For girls it sends out the message that sexual harassment is just a fact of life, and that even if someone’s comments or behaviour makes them uncomfortable, speaking out won’t help and could even make their situation worse. 

Together we’ve been campaigning for high quality Sex and Relationships Education in every school in Scotland covering essential topics including consent, online abuse, healthy relationships and sexual harassment. I believe this is a vital first step to real change, giving girls and boys a safe space to discuss what is and what is not acceptable behaviour in school and in wider society.

Read the full article Sexual abuse, bullying and harassment in schools has an answer – better sex education

How is sexual harassment dealt with in your school? Do you think the introduction of Sex and Relationships Education will improve the situation? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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