We often go into schools to talk to people about consent. It’s great to have the opportunity to have positive discussions about relationships, enthusiastic consent, and the support available for those affected by gender-based violence.
It is also an opportunity to learn about the culture in schools.
So when a story about sexual abuse being rife in schools comes up it is not a surprise to us.
There has been a steady narrative emerging in schools for a while of the legal system victimising men and boys, of a pressure on girls to provide nudes, and of an us and them culture. The us and them being boys versus girls rather than it being everyone versus those who perpetrate these crimes. It is no surprise that this creates a culture with high rates of sexual violence.
Once when we spoke in schools and at events the question was always “what about support for men?” now the question is always “What about the women who lie about being raped?”
It’s tempting to hit these young men over the head with conviction rates and false reporting statistics. But shouting numbers at people will not help to convince them that women and the legal system are not out to get them. It will not erase rape culture in schools. And it will not keep girls safe.
Whilst one off talks in schools start an important conversation, they won’t change boy’s gut instinct that says they are being wronged or create an environment in which girls will feel confident they will be believed if they speak out.
Schools need to find ways to tackle this that work if they are to create a safe, respectful, and supportive environments for our children to learn.
If you are worried about this at your school or you are a parent who is worried about your child’s school get in touch with your local support services. We can support schools. This is not inevitable.
If you have been affected, you deserve support. We will take you seriously and we will believe you.