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Sexual bullying - time for schools to act to protect girls?

(66 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 11-Oct-12 13:14:28

Today's guest blog is from Holly Dustin, from the End Violence Against Women Coalition, which this week launched its Schools Safe 4 Girls campaign.

As evidence mounts that teenage girls are increasingly vulnerable to sexual bullying - and even violence - both in and out of school, Holly's written a powerful post urging schools to do more to protect and empower girls, and to educate both girls and boys about sexual consent.

Have a look, and tell us what you think. Is this something that you remember from school - or something that you're concerned about for your own children? Would you be prepared, as Holly urges, to talk to your own school about how it protects girls?

If you blog about this, (or about International Day of Girl, which is today) let us know here on the thread. Or add your post to our linky - we'll be tweeting them over the next few days.

Vickiw1 Wed 28-Aug-13 14:44:52

My 6 year old daughter was sexually assaulted at her primary school in a four month campaign of sexist bullying. Sexual assault of girls at school is a sexist attack, a way of indicating the boy thinks his rights are superior to hers. Most teachers and parents seem to agree as this is such a widespread problem. I have heard boys shout out that they are better than girls in the playground whilst indulgent teachers look on. Try shouting out whites are better than blacks and see if they smile so much. The teachers kept telling my daughter when she reported attacks that it was boys messing about, that they were just playing and eventually they put her in a special needs class. I am so angry at the bigotry my daughter and I suffered when trying to get these gendered attacks dealt with. The police, Offsted, Council, DofE, Social Services, NSPCC and board of governors all covered up these boys behaviour but did nothing to help my daughter and the 1 in 3 girls in the UK like her. Even other parents looked the other way and 2 sets of parents whose daughters were also attacked just advised their daughters on how to defend themselves with chairs ... FFS, this country is so gender bigoted that young girls do not stand a chance of equality. They are porned by boys and teachers and parents long before they get to 16 and somehow they are meant to withstand a culture that says their only value is in the size of their tits and their willingness to abuse themselves sexually in order to look like the girls on the porn sites their boyfriends want them to emulate. Supermarkets sell sexism and there are 1.2m sexist attacks in the home every year ... 40 years on from gender equality legislation and the only thing men value in women is sex ... and please don't tell me thats because of feminism, since it was that attitude that gave birth to feminism so it was around from the days of the old testament and it appears nothing much has changed in gender apartheid since then ... where are the fathers, brothers and boyfriends in the anti sexism marches .... nowhere thats where ...

WorriedBetty Fri 19-Oct-12 00:11:36

I don't know if I am getting a bit 'in my day' but I think people who had sex before seeing internet porn, but then had access to it really had the best of deals.

Apologies for crudeness but we had the brilliant luxury of liking guys or fancying them and bedding them if we felt comfortable to, but then feeling the need to explore and sense what they liked, what worked etc and sort of 'giving' them our ruder selves or just being a bit standard (I didn't like being standard but I liked arty blokes and some were so bloody 'considerate' it was like going to bed with wet, huggy sock)

I had never seen an erect cock apart from seeing.. an actual erect cock.. if you see what I mean, until I was about 30. I know some boys had seen women naked in pictures, but none had seen even hands near genitals let alone fists and buttplugs etc in porn. Also all the porn I saw when I was younger was display by women and not actual sex and definitely NO COCKS! grin

Now I think girls (and guys!) have not only seen an erect cock online before they have had a boyfriend as an adult, they have seen it thrusting in and out of a bumhole, or being wanked furiously by an older (and often ugly.. why is that?) guy without even any actual sex, and coming onto a girl. Many kids have seen all that before their first kiss - perhaps they don't even link feelings and warm emotional kissing with sex..

What I think is good and also bad these days is that women are actually portrayed by far as the more sexual sex, which wasn't quite the case in my day (though women were far more in charge in reality than general discourse suggested..my pal at uni had 21 men in the first three weeks of term and had by far and away the biggest and most supportive group of friends of all sexes - if she had even been walking arm in arm with more than one guy in the small town I came from, she would have been practically exiled! grin. )

I know men who are afraid to admit they wank whilst my female friends are talking about strapons and pissing on people. Perhaps it was forever thus, but I don't remember this when I was 18, but the girls from work can't stop talking about it, and I can't work out if that is objectification, honesty, brainwashing or liberation.. I honestly can't!

I take you back to SoupDragon's point. Girls and boys are our children - they are children. Society is splitting the male and female gender for purposes of commercial exploitation. Women are packaged on TV as sex objects - even on shows that should know better - and men are packaged as figures of fun or gladiatorial meat that must be slaughtered in some bloody scene.

These two basic, stereotypical animalistic depictions of humans are degrading and are being acted out now in our homes and streets. Aggression is rife, including sexual aggression inflicted on women and sexually targeted stimulus aimed at men. We do have to look at attitudes in a school society, but as long as we have a media that continues to pump rancid bilge into the wider society, like some filthy sewage pipe on a beach - then we are not dealing with one major source of our contorted values.

Where internet porn is concerned, I can only describe what has evolved as heartbreaking. Where once we had laws that prevented certain material getting into anyone's hands, let along children, now we have this PC in the corner of a room, in which material can be watched showing anything imaginable (and worse) in the field of human degeneration. It is almost unfair for a government to allow such access, and then to wonder why people look at it. We don't keep nuclear waste in our home, so why this potentially toxic machine! The horror is that young people who simply try and access an image of a glamorous idol for example, can unwittingly be exposed to illegal and foul material.

Meanwhile the internet service supplier makes money out of the 'supply' on this content. In days of old, I understand that shops were raided for supplying such things. How come Talk Talk, BT and others do not spend a proportion of their massive income in filtering out and blocking sites that challenge every known human value? Each time we read of a sex offender collecting child porn, the news sources should also be made to report which household provider supplied the internet feed!

The internet is not the only problem. The advertising and entertainment industries have one target and one only - money! I would be proud to support Mumsnet and it's members, if we were to take an active stance against any advertiser who depicts girls OR boys, women OR men as trash, dimwits, sexual objects or any representation that significantly sets out to dehumanise and demean us. It’s no good bringing up our girls in a world that protected them but had failed to protect the people they may have as a partner or their eventual children!

I have seen adverts where a woman gets hit in the face by an object or by a man, and naturally complaints followed. How come we see adverts where men are being hit and this is broadly acceptable? What happened to our disgust? Why in the cinema will women cheer when a woman slaps a man, but there is a stoned silence when a man slaps a woman? We really need to look at our values too! We can't provide emotional justice for our own gender but neglect the emotional needs of the males in our lives, can we?

I detect that young people who fail to appreciate the feelings of others, are often from homes where their own feelings are frequently brushed aside.

Themumsnot Tue 16-Oct-12 09:34:43

Soup - this is NOT about evil boys. This is about a culture that gives boys permission to objectify their female peers and act out the destructive attitudes to women that they have seen modelled in real life or via internet porn. No one is saying that ALL boys do this, and no one is saying that ALL girls are plaster saints. What we are saying is that this sort of sexual bullying is far more common than people realise and that it largely goes under the radar of adults. Girls just put up with it day in day out and they shouldn't have to.

SoupDragon Tue 16-Oct-12 07:56:45

I utterly despise the way boys are being demonised here. A few people have pointed out that girls can be the perpetrators and boys can, and have, been the victims. My DS was in Y5 and had repeated unwanted physical attention from a girl in his class. When he pushed the girl away after she wouldn't leave him alone (after he had told the teacher on previous occasions) he was the one who got into trouble because she said he had hit her.

ALL children need protecting. Making this specifically about Evil Boys isn't helping.

Absolutely, ethelb. I've posted this idea a few times on various threads about the proposed opt-in:

I'd like to see a regular education and support programme for all teens (and younger, probably) and their parents. It could be done through schools, maybe at parents' evenings, and could cover -

- installing, configuring and maintaining filtering software (people could bring along their devices if they were having probs)

- how to deal with the occasions when the filtering software lets something through or is deliberately circumvented - i.e. how to discuss what's out there with your DC - because no system is perfect and sooner or later they'll have access to it all.

- online bullying, both by people they know in RL and people they only know online. What to do, who to tell, coping strategies.

- online safety - social networking, posting photos, videos and personal info, stalking, grooming. What to do, who to tell.

Probably a few other things too.

Schools also need to be taking a tougher line on pupils who bring in porn and pass it round - after all, exposing any minor to porn is a CP issue.

ethelb Mon 15-Oct-12 20:34:54

I dopn't agree with Lady but I do think that we need to look at boys in this as more than just aggressors tbh.

I don't think ALL teenage boys are accessing or even enjoying violent pornography. Its just that the ones who are behave as though it is normal and other (teenage and needing to fit in) boys just follow their behaviour.

I think we need to look at why that is.

Lady I can't remember the last time I read such victim-blaming posts. Against the background of Savile and Rochdale I find your comments quite sickening. Attitudes like these help create a culture where such horrific events are possible.

I think this campaign is fantastic and much needed. Girls have a right to an education in a safe environment and it's shocking the extent to which we are still failing them.

Throughout my secondary school years it was pretty much the norm for boys to be lifting girls' skirts, creeping up and undoing bras, grabbing our breasts or smacking our bums as we walked down the corridor. We were advised to 'just ignore it'. O level physics was particularly bad, perhaps because there were only three girls in a class of 30. None of us continued to A level despite all three of us getting an A.

Girls at school nowadays have all this to cope with and all the online bullying, porn and sexting stuff. None of us (I hope) would put up with this in the workplace, however we dress for work, yet we expect our daughters to deal with it on a daily basis while at school.

I think schools need to take a much tougher line on sexual bullying. I was shocked to read about the school which didn't exclude a boy for serious sexual assault. I was reminded of the Guardian article about the new Sapphire initiative. The head of Sapphire said, "If you were in Lewisham High Street at night and someone had a glass or bottle stuck in their neck, we would use the licensing legislation to close that place down. But until now we haven't done that for sexual offences."

This is the attitude which has to change - that if it's sexual it's somehow not serious, a bit of a laugh, just horseplay or that victims are not really victims, because they've been drinking, because of how they are dressed, because it's 'natural' or just what men are like or some other minimising tosh.

I was very pleased to be able to send DD to a girl's school. Sadly it didn't prevent her from being sexually assaulted on her way home while dressed in school trousers and sweatshirt.

ethelb Mon 15-Oct-12 16:53:29

Lady I have rarely worn provocative clothing. And on the occasions I have I have received fewer comments about my sexuality as I 'blended in'. It's not as simple as you think.
The fact that I had short hair and was quite bookish led to more comments about me being a slag than anything else.

I was clear not to say that skimpy clothing and sexualised advances justifies harrassment or assault. In the Rolex analogy I pointed out that it didn't justify the crime, but that it was foolhardy to flaunt one in a high-risk area.

Empowerment is taking responsibility. There is a real lack of awareness in many people about how they impact on others. You could not have a more charged up male arena than a school full of teenage boys. Many have great trouble simply trying to conceal their interest! I suppose I am sadly of the view that our society has become so sexualised, that our young people are being groomed by a media that seems to want them to always push the limits.

I think there may have been a time when 'young ladies' were advised not to flaunt it too much. That's gone. Now, the message seems to be flaunt it, flash it, and torment them - if they groan or make a move, you will never have to examine your own behaviour - it will always be the boys fault!

OK. So we may not agree on that point. In connection with my work I had to visit a refuge recently where a pupil was now in the protection of the council. In the interview, such was her behaviour that we had to increase security because she was flaunting herself to the taxi drivers in the queue outside, who were now regulalry attending the window to get her attention again. This poor girl was clearly only seeing herself as a sexual entity, and not a person deserving respect on another level.

Maybe that is my point. It's about something inside, and not being someone else's fantasy. Being 'one of the girls' and fashion conscious always was an issue - but it is less important to girls who have the confidence to be themselves. If girls value themselves more they will not be as vulnerable to commercial or sexual predators. There will be a congruant message NO, reflected in their words, body language and attire. It's not about being stuffy. We don't empower a driver on the road by saying drive anyway you want to - we advise them to become fully aware of all the risks and therefore become safer. Life is a highway!

rockinhippy Sun 14-Oct-12 19:11:37

Lady, you make ridiculously unfounded assumptions about what we teach our DCs, try reading the replies, who exactly is teaching them they are helpless, - you also seem to be missing the point completelyhmm

I don't doubt girls will try to out do dress wise for attention, boys too, its always been that way, that is the social norm, always has been - but that does not in anyway detract from the fact that just because things are on display, whatever that may be, consumer goods or a bit too much cleavagehmm that it's yours for the taking THAT is the message that needs to be taught, not cover up or your asking for it - how the hell is that message "empowering"shock [anger]

OneHandFlapping Sun 14-Oct-12 16:29:15

I am so...o...o glad that DD goes to an all girls secondary. She is largely protected from daily crap from teenage boys - until she wants to be involved with them.

It's pretty basic and obvious really. The connection between the way we dress and the attention we draw is so intrinsically linked, both in work and social contexts that I am surprised it never occurred to you.

Yes, many teachers talk away from parents about the clothing and behaviour of girls competing for the attention of the boys. There is a sad link between plainer girls and more revealing clothes, as some sometimes seek to gain the attention they would otherwise have received had they been more visually eye catching. It's the simple rules of survival - nature set up that competition and girls will fall for this if they don't have a stronger sense of self - particularly as their pop idol female stars depict 'being undressed' as a basic starting point. Even the talented Jessie J occasionally portrays herself in a way that years ago would have been likened to looking like a 'scrubber'.

Boys too compete on the visual pride front. Boys who are addicted to mirrors and appearance are many. The comb is never far from reach. The only difference is that they will pay a huge amount of attention to their footwear for example, but there is no scope in their clothing protocols to wear revealing clothing. I wonder how long it would take for us to complain if they did and they tried to match the girls in this respect.

There is a culture in some areas where a boy of a particular ethnic origin will select a girl and tell her that she is his. This can be very controlling and has to be dealt with quickly. What is lesser known is that some girls want this situation to occur and are never happier than when two boys are fighting over her.

Overall, I am not seeking to flip blame for these matters one way or the other. I do think though that by telling our girls that they are helpless and unable to have any influence over the attention they get is dishonest and disempowering. We do our children no favours by sending them off in life with a message that there is nothing they can do about the way the world behaves towards them.

Thewidewideworld Sun 14-Oct-12 13:41:08

Actually, Lady, my daughters go to school in loose-fitting black trousers and a baggy black sweatshirt. It doesn't seem to stop boys calling them slags and whores.

rockinhippy Sun 14-Oct-12 12:01:49

Lady sorry, but IMHO that is absolute bullshit & sounds like something from the days of the Ark hmm

Not saying I disagree that boys can also be victims, but correlating the way some girls dress as an acceptable excuse for sexual bullying is plain archaic & looking back to my own youth, the idea of a boy having his ghoulies hanging out of the side of his shorts, being sexually enticing, made me spit my coffeegrin it just wouldn't work that way.

Saying girls showing their wares means in provocative dress, that they should expect to be sexually harassed, is like saying putting that expensive watch, designer bag or souped up TV on display in a shop window is asking for it to be stolen, plain ridiculoushmm

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Sun 14-Oct-12 11:59:45

I agreed with your fourth paragraph, but the rest was dreadful, as I suspect you intended LadyInTheWater.

Have you not been aware of the ever worsening headlines which have been emerging in the last few weeks? It gets worse every day, but let's blame the girls, eh?

GetOrfAKAMrsUsainBolt Sun 14-Oct-12 11:48:26

I cannot believe that in the current climate someone can post such comments that the way young girls dress is somehow the reason why they get such attention and sometime teachers don't know where to look.

What an absolute load of inflammatory nonsense.

ThingsThatGoBumpInTheNight Sun 14-Oct-12 04:19:02

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koolmumlookin4fun Sun 14-Oct-12 00:40:26

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Working in school and elsewhere, I am surprised at us being so focussed so exclusively around the harassment of girls while being almost blind to the subject of harassment of children generally. Sexual harassment of girls is of course something that should always be taken seriously, but we also see manipulative, cruel and sometimes vicious behaviour towards boys from girls, and I think to stand up always for the rights of girls and to dismiss the suffering and, sometimes sexually based harassment of boys as being somehow less important, reflects a trend everywhere in the media. They, including the BBC, seem to place the psychological attention to women above that of men. Are we claiming perpetual victimhood to the point that we are denying men any attention for their emotional needs? Women's media seems so often devoid of a balance in this area.

I am also of the view that vast numbers of girls deliberately compete for boy's attention through sexualised behaviour and/or the use of inappropriately revealing clothing. How can adults discuss these problems without being honest about this? If boys came to school in skimpy clothing and tight shorts with their testacies bulging out we would say that it was unfair to expose the girls to these sights - yet so many parents and schools (including my own) seem to allow girls into the classes who are not only distracting the boys with inappropriate exposure, but the teachers too! Even female teachers say they sometimes don't know where to look! This is a kind of assault, not from boys - but from girls!

Nature requires young men to be fired up (perhaps more than girls), and it is only society's influence and good parental example that helps them moderate their responses (to a degree). Girls attending schools nearly (or deliberately) showing their underwear is provocative. It could be described as a form of bating - it's rather like you going to a high crime area of a city and flashing a Rolex! It doesn't excuse a theft, but it is the height of stupidity to do it as you may very well get a reaction you don't want. It could encourage crime generally.

I am also concerned that the media is also sexualising children to a point that it is no longer acceptable. Women are dressing like little girls and girls are dressing like women. Boys must be confused at all these contradictory messages. 'What am I looking at, a woman or a child?' 'How am I supposed to relate to this person?'

I think it is time that we as mothers, used our consumer power against companies that exploit gender to gain favour with us. Here is an example: Financial companies often depict women as clever and men as stupid, as they want to seduce us women into buying their services. As humans we are being split - and we should be guarded about joining in to this commercially inspired belief system. We may be starting to think the same divisive way about children too! I think that the greatest gift we can give our kids for future equality is to treat them all with the same care and respect - that way they will hopefully grow up respecting one another too!

koolmumlookin4fun Sun 14-Oct-12 00:13:14

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gaby274 Sat 13-Oct-12 00:13:00

More needs to be done to protect all teenagers im a ex midwife and now a peadractic nurse and over my time in hospital ive seen girls affected not just physical but mentaly. My daughter is now 16 when she was 15 her so called boyfriend stiched her up saying he would meet her and had let another man pay for her to have sex with her. Still to this day she is still in fear

rockinhippy Fri 12-Oct-12 23:06:53

Probably not sheppy, thinking back it was probably a damned site easier for parents, just let them loose to run riot until tea time.grin Imeant lazy from the POV of not overseeing internet access properly + keeping them safe, probably not the best choice of phrase, but I'm sure you get what I mean.

& yes crazy I've had that too + we live in Gay Capital, thankfully school acted swiftly, but I was none too chuffed to have to explain to a then 5 yr old why it was wrong, especially as she has Gay Godparents - I think perhaps it comes in the same bag as racism, rather than sexual bullying though confused

SheppySheepdog Fri 12-Oct-12 22:43:07

Yep, it's got to be the pornification of our culture IMO. Internet, mobile phones, porn readily available 24/7, our whole culture seeming to just revolve around sex. Kids don't know how they are supposed to act anymore.

I'm 27 and this wasn't widespread when I was at school, not so very long ago. I doubt parenting has become very much lazier since then. grin

crazygracieuk Fri 12-Oct-12 20:16:40

Another angle that should be taken up is homophobic language in schools (especially primaries).
My oldest picked up a lot if homophobic language in primary school and teachers there wouldn't bat an eyelid at phrases like "You're gay" used as an insult. I don't know if people who are gay know their sexual orientation in primary but I hope that his stupidity in repeating such words has not affected anyone he was at primary with.

He's picked up a more tolerant view of homosexuality in secondary school and although I'll probably never know I wonder if he's picked it up from same age peers or older ones.

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