Everyone’s Invited

The Women and Equality Committee’s Report on the issue of sexual violence in schools, published 5 years ago included guidance and advice on how to prevent sexual harassment and violence and protect its students. Sadly, this Government has so far been resistant to take the necessary steps to ensure there is a functional and effective safeguarding procedure in place, leading to a continuation of a culture of misogyny and sexual violence against women and girls in education. 

The website ‘Everyone’s Invited’ has gathered over 11,000 harrowing testimonials from young women and girls from all over the UK about their experiences of sexual harassment, violence, and abuse in school. These testimonies are a product of a rape culture that has been left unchecked within our society for far too long.

It is not only the responsibility of young girls and women to protect themselves from sexual violence and harassment. The Government and education providers need to take urgent action to incite change to make certain that schools, colleges, and universities are safe places for every single student. I want to lend my voice to the calls for an urgent inquiry to investigate and overhaul the safeguarding procedures, as they are evidently not fit for purpose.

As a society, it is important that we learn from past mistakes and make each day safer than the last. The allegations of sexual abuse in schools need urgent investigation, and support must be in place for the victims. Guidance for schools is available on the gov.uk website but the issue of peer-on-peer sexual harassment is a complex one, with over a third of female students (37%) and 6% of female students in mixed-sex schools having reported experiences of sexual harassment in school in 2018 alone.  There must be a national strategy put in place to ensure that every school has clear guidance on how to deal with sexism, harassment and violence against pupils.

The Government must act now to introduce an effective strategy to tackle sexism and sexual harassment in education settings. Education providers need clear guidance, policies and training to ensure staff are confident in maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to sexism and sexual violence.

The normalisation of every-day sexism is a major issue that leads to a lack of consequence for sexual harassment that is damaging for the victims, who are often told to brush off advances, as ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘banter’. The lasting and damaging effects of this are dangerous and need to stop.

The ‘Everyone’s Invited’ movement has brought more public awareness to the issue of sexual violence in schools, but it is unfortunately not a new issue. I hope that the Government will act swiftly and decisively to ensure that harassment in schools longer goes unchecked, that the victims of abuse have safe and secure ways to report violence and more importantly, access to counselling and further support. We must protect our children in their schools and eradicate sexism, misogyny and abuse.

Sexual violence in schools is an abhorrent and endemic issue that this Government must act on immediately. It is the responsibility of schools  the Government to work together to protect children from, especially young girls who are being told alter their behaviour to account for the actions of others. It is vital that young people are educated properly at a young age and shown repeatedly that sexist behaviour is not ok. A uniform approach up and down the UK is necessary in order to finally put a stop to misogyny and make sure that the education system is safe for every student.