Your time at school is a very important stage of your life. You’re learning, making friends, growing up, and facing new experiences on the daily. It’s a safe environment to develop, with a network of support for each individual. That’s the surface of it.
Plenty of teachers work their asses off to give their students the best opportunities possible. Whether they have a bad home life, or are struggling with work outside the classroom, the school steps forward to fill a gap in the kid’s life. And while many people are doing a good job here, other factors are pushing the other way.
Bullying, in all its horrendous forms can be found in pretty much any school. Whether it be name calling, cyber bullying, or sending photos around, unfortunately many kids have faced this. But that’s not the only disturbingly common obstacle in UK schools. To my surprise, sexual assault is happening on a bigger scale than I ever imagined.
Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, conducted some research about sexual violence in schools. She found that a rape a day is happening in term time in UK schools. Read that sentence again and really let that sink in.
I would think it to be a tragedy for one rape to occur in a school full stop. Or anywhere for that matter. But for somewhere as safe and non-violent and non-sexual as a school to have this sort of crisis is highly worrying.
5,500 sexual offences, including 600 rapes, have taken place in schools since 2015. And that’s only the amount which has been reported to Police. So how have things ended up so bad, and without many of us even noticing?
I suppose a lot of this comes down to schools not wanting to be branded as unsafe environments. They don’t have to be like this. But if we can’t handle this behaviour happening at such a young age, what’s it going to be like when these children grow up? As this behaviour becomes more common, are we setting ourselves up for a society where this is just ‘something that happens’ and that’s that?
That’s just the thing though: sexual assault is becoming normalised. Laura Bates has spoken about a rape case which occurred in the UK school, involving a 14-year-old boy. She explained, ‘a teacher had said to him, “Why didn’t you stop when she was crying?” and he looked straight back at her, quite bewildered, and said, “Because it is normal for girls to cry during sex.”’
This is not one boy’s opinion. Bates has been vocal about how she visits many schools, in which many kids believe violence, crying, and even rape, to be a normal part of foreplay. It’s also worth noting, many of these kids have seen porn with this sort of content involved.
Anyone able to work a mobile phone has the capability of finding porn. Despite age restrictions, I highly doubt your average teenager would struggle to find porn online within minutes. And while there is a variety out there, there’s a large amount of misogynistic pornography available, which doesn’t portray sex in a realistic light.
It’s time to actually do something. We can have the typical British ‘oh no we can’t possibly talk about sex’ reaction, or we could actually acknowledge the fact that if school children are accessing this stuff, discussion needs to take place. There needs to be better education. It’s all very well knowing how to stick a condom on a cucumber, but lessons also need to cover consent and the mental side of things too.
The whole ‘boys will be boys’ saying is getting tired, and it’s a toxic notion. As nice as the majority of boys are, we are still living in a society that shrugs off their bad behaviour as something simply expected from them. It was an unspoken rule, while I was at school at least, that if a boy was mean to you it meant he fancied you. Translation: don’t worry if he’s a prick – take it as a compliment that he even notices you. You should be flattered! Update: I’m not flattered. And this mind-set is so normal, that it’s time somebody called it out.