A new report, released today, revealed that despite young girls increasingly experiencing sexual harassment on the streets, schools are still not teaching about the issue in the classroom.
Global children’s charity Plan International UK conducted an in-depth survey with over 150 students and recent school leavers and found that despite the on-going harassment, most schoolchildren are not taught about the violence in the classroom. The survey also found that those who had reported incidents to their schools did not feel the school acted in a reasonable way and almost half admitted that they would not report an incident to their school.
The report found that just 14% of students had been taught about public sexual harassment. In the study, 47% of students said they would not report an incident of public sexual harassment to their school either because they did not know or feared not being taken seriously by staff.
Alarmingly, the report revealed that 72% of pupils who did report public sexual harassment described receiving a negative response from their school, with the majority of participants stating that no real action was taken.
In April 2019, Plan UK published a report that revealed 42 per cent of girls and young women who have been sexually harassed in public didn’t tell anyone about what happened to them. The study also showed that out of 1001 girls and young women aged 14-21, two thirds (66 per cent) said they had either received sexual attention, been touched, groped or grabbed, or experienced indecent exposure in public but only a minority spoke out about it.
In light of the findings, a group of schoolgirls and students are on a mission to change this. Sisters Gemma and Maya Tutton, the duo behind the Our Streets Now grassroots campaign, which was launched in April 2019 to end street harassment (with over 200,00 signatures to date) are launching Our Schools Now, a new petition which is fighting for public sexual harassment to became part of PSHE/RSE curriculum in schools.
Maya and Gemma Tutton said: “We need to make sure that the next generation of children in the UK understand the prevalence and impact of public sexual harassment.
“As children and teenagers go back to school and the Government’s mandatory sex education curriculum is introduced, we are urging schools to include public sexual harassment within their mandatory PSHE/RSE lessons.
“The rise of online and offline abuse as a consequence of the pandemic must not be allowed to further proliferate with the reduction of adequate sex education in response to schools being under pressure because of Covid-19.”
Gemma adds: “I remember one incident of harassment when I challenged the perpetrators, telling them “I’m 13 years old”. One man answered, “Age doesn’t matter to me”. This culture has to change because until it does, girls will continue to feel confused, isolated and even blame themselves. I certainly did”.
14 year old student from Essex, Anya said: “Since I was 11 years old I have avoided walking home alone from the bus stop, especially when coming home from school in my uniform. Along with the majority of my friends, I have experienced public sexual harassment on multiple occasions. Yet we’ve never been taught about it.”
19 year old recent school leaver from Cheshire, Jess commented; “Travelling to and from school became a trip that was uncomfortable. I remember walking back from school in year 9, and these guys drove past and honked their horn and shouted at me. At the time I was so upset, uncomfortable and embarrassed and immediately blamed myself. Looking back, I know how beneficial it would have been to have been taught about public sexual harassment.”
Find out more about the campaign and sign the petition at ourstreetsnow.org