British MPs on the Women and Equalities Committee have launched a first of its kind investigation into sexual harassment and violence in schools following a recent report that found numerous unreported or "brushed off" incidents.
Many teachers were turning a blind eye to bullying and other forms of violence at schools because of the young age of the parties involved, revealed the report. The polled students admitted that schools were unwilling to play their part in recognizing the obstacles young students face from bullying and sexual violence.
The research is conducted on behalf of the committee through a series of workshops with 300 students aged 16-25, and it will continue until May 22. The aim of the committee was to reveal the scale and impact of sexual harassment and violence in British schools.
Evidence suggests that an average of 200 alleged rapes per year are reported in British schools, writes Javier Espinoza of The Telegraph. Furthermore, the study also found out that students were afraid to report cases of assaults because they were concerned that they would be punished along with the offender.
A BBC investigation dated from last fall, based on freedom of information requests, showed that 5,500 sexual assaults have been recorded in UK schools over a period of three years. The number also includes 600 rapes. Another poll of 16-to 18-year-olds conducted by YouGov in 2010 found out that nearly 30% of female students experienced unwanted sexual touching at school. 71% of them admitted they heard sexual name-calling of girls — including abusive words such as slut and slag — a few times a week at school.
Conservative MP Maria Miller, who also chairs the committee, commented:
"It's clear from the young people we've heard from that sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is having a profound impact on their day-to-day lives.We need to address this issue now, and stop it from blighting the lives of another generation of young people – both male and female."
As Lucy Clarke-Billings of the Newsweek writes, Miller is asking educators, students and parents to get in touch and share their experiences to stop the issue from "blighting the lives of another generation of young people—both male and female."
The report also pays attention to the prevalence of sexting, which is described as a common practice, writes Sally Weale of The Guardian. Many young girls confirmed being "bullied for being a virgin," while other students said that boys were often awarded "lad points" for having sex.
Sonia Livingstone, a professor of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics, admitted that sexting had turned into a normal behavior among young students. She blamed it on the fact that every student now has a phone at his/her disposal.
In her view, earlier sexual education can be a successful way to tackle the issue. According to Professor Livingstone, sexual education should start as of the age of five:
"When they start school have some kind of discussion about respect for their bodies as a way of opening the conversation, so that young people feel that teachers are someone to be trusted."