What Does the New Relationships Education (RE), Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education Statutory Guidance Say About Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment?
You’ll probably have seen that the new guidance includes topics on what sexual violence and sexual harassment are, what to do when they do occur or are alleged to have occurred, and how to minimise the risk of them occurring.
That might seem like a lot to take in… so let’s break it down!
Firstly, schools should make it clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment are not acceptable, will never be tolerated and are not an inevitable part of growing up.
We love that the safety of the young people has been put at the heart of the new guidance. School policies should support all pupils and schools should be actively discussing issues such as everyday sexism, misogyny, homophobia and gender stereotypes.
Another way to tackle topics like sexual violence and sexual harassment is by focusing on healthy relationships, acceptable behaviour and the right of everyone to equal treatment. This will help ensure that pupils treat each other well and go on to be respectful and kind adults.
By the end of secondary school pupils should know:
- the characteristics of positive and healthy friendships including: trust, respect, honesty, kindness, generosity, boundaries, privacy, consent and the management of conflict
- practical steps they can take in a range of different contexts to improve or support respectful relationships
- how stereotypes, in particular stereotypes based on sex, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability, can cause damage (e.g. how they might normalise non-consensual behaviour or encourage prejudice)
- that in school and in wider society they can expect to be treated with respect by others, and that in turn they should show due respect to others
From our experiences, many schools are already approaching these topics sensitively and appropriately; and staff are aware of the important role they play in modelling positive behaviours. Great work!
But what else does the guidance say schools should be doing?
As well as educating young people on sexual assault and harassment, staff need to consider how they deal with peer on peer abuse within their school.
The bottom line…
Any report of sexual violence or sexual harassment should be taken seriously!
Building on this, the guidance has a balanced approach to how gender can affect these topics:
- While staff should be aware that statistically it is more likely that females will be the victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment, males can also be the victims and it can also happen in same-sex relationships
- While staff should be aware that males are more likely to be perpetrators, it is essential that assumptions are not made about the behaviour of young men and that they are not made to feel that this behaviour is an inevitable part of being male
How can Loudmouth Help (My School)?
The new guidance states that pupils should be aware that some types of behaviour within relationships are criminal. It also states that topics like domestic abuse, including coercive and controlling behaviour, should be addressed sensitively and clearly. Well, challenge accepted!
We have three theatre in education programmes which explore sexual violence and sexual harassment.
Safe and Sound: sexual violence in intimate relationships
This domestic abuse programme includes a drama which follows a relationship in which 16 year old Sian is abused by her older boyfriend Zac. The drama explores many different types of abuse, including sexual assault. The young people then get a chance to talk to the characters themselves in a ‘hotseat’ activity, using their voice to challenge Zac on his misogyny.
In the workshops we discuss sexual assault in the context of a female perpetrator emotionally coercing her boyfriend, showing how male victims often have their masculinity used against them. Through this scenario we introduce ‘Enthusiastic Consent’, discussing how a ‘yes’ given under emotional pressure cannot be taken at face value.
Bully 4 U Secondary: sexual harassment
This performance is a montage of different types of bullying including cyberbullying, homophobic bullying, and sexual harassment. The drama shows how sexist beliefs and double standards often play a role in harassment, and the workshop provides an opportunity to examine these double standards in more detail.
Working for Marcus: grooming and sexual exploitation
This programme explores sexual exploitation (among other types of child exploitation). The drama follows the story of 14 year old Caz as she is groomed and manipulated by perpetrator Marcus. The young people can ask her questions about her experience, and how she realised that she was being abused and assaulted.
In the workshops we look at victim blaming language, and give the young people the chance to transform statements which blame the victim (A woman shouldn’t go out dancing in a short dress in case a man sexually assaults her) into statements which blame the perpetrator (A man shouldn’t sexually assault a woman because she is dancing in a short dress.)
Here are so extra pieces or information and tips that you might find useful…
This 2011 NSPCC report found that almost a quarter of young adults experienced sexual abuse during childhood.
Here’s a handy video from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (you can watch this here).
There is LOADS of extra guidance on education and safeguarding against peer on peer abuse in the sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges 2018 report.
Agenda’s Making Positive Relationships Matter page is full of case studies which show “just how creative you can be in supporting children and young people to explore and express what matters to them”
The Girlguiding's Girls' Attitudes Survey 2017 has a lot of information (check out p20!) about sexual harassment at school. For example: 64% of girls aged 13-21 had experienced sexual violence or sexual harassment at school or college in the past year. This included 39% having their bra strap pulled by a boy and 27% having their skirts pulled up within the last week.
We hope you found this blog helpful. Still want more information? Well you’re in luck! Loudmouth still have lots of information that we are excited to share with you, concerning RE, RSE and Health Education! Just head to our website to find out more.