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Groping, Rape Threats And Explicit Pictures: The Reality Of Sexual Harassment In Schools

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Groping, Rape Threats And Explicit Pictures: The Reality Of Sexual Harassment In Schools

Warning: Distressing content

Groping. Rape threats. Revenge porn... just a typical day in the life of school girls up and down the country.

An Ofsted report this week confirmed what half of the population already knew; that sexual harassment is a fact of life in UK schools; and that, for the most parts, these incidents are "so commonplace that they see no point in reporting them".

Almost 1,000 children took part in the study, and while it's not exclusively a female issue, a much higher proportion of girls said they had experienced explicit pictures and sexist name-calling.

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Tyla spoke to four women about their own memories of sexual harassment at school, and it doesn't make for easy reading...

A new Ofsted report has highlighted the extent of sexual harassment in UK schools (Credit: Shutterstock)
A new Ofsted report has highlighted the extent of sexual harassment in UK schools (Credit: Shutterstock)

Emma, 20, Bedfordshire (left school in 2018)

"At first, I couldn't recall being sexually harassed as a school girl. But on reflection, that couldn't be further from the truth - which just goes to show how normalised harassment has become among young people.

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"From as young as 14, I remember on numerous occasions receiving unwanted naked pictures from boys. When I refused to send one back, I was branded as 'frigid' and that label would spread like wildfire. No boys would go near me.

"It became a bit of a joke; us girls knew if we received a Snapchat from a boy past 10pm, we know exactly what it would be.

"I think nowadays, the abuse and misuse of social media apps is a huge issue. There's an expectation at such a young age to look 'sexy' and show off as much skin as possible, but when we do (or even when we don't in my case), we are reprimanded.

"This is definitely not the case in every school, or for every girl or boy and I do believe that as times are changing, this attitude is improving. But as proven by Ofsted's recent study, it is still a problem and it seems like a losing battle."

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Receiving explicit photos via Snapchat is just part of everyday life for many young girls (Credit: Shutterstock)
Receiving explicit photos via Snapchat is just part of everyday life for many young girls (Credit: Shutterstock)

Grace, 25, Brighton (left school in 2013)

"I have this vivid memory from school, I was around 14 and was a regular teenager; very self-conscious.

"One of the 'popular' boys, who had a habit of making sexist remarks about the girls at school, took a liking to me. One day, I was bending over to get my school bag when a group of boys circled me. The 'popular' guy stood behind me, grabbed my hips with an erect penis and start grinding on me, thrusting really hard. I couldn't get away. All the boys laughed, I felt embarrassed and told him to f*ck off.

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"I think about this so often, and the worst part is it wasn't just me; he did it to a lot of other girls. So much so, I'm convinced the teachers would have seen him do it, but he was never stopped or kicked out."

Girls reported being slut shamed over the length of their skirts (Credit: Shutterstock)
Girls reported being slut shamed over the length of their skirts (Credit: Shutterstock)

Kate, 27, London (left school in 2012)

"I was 13 when I passed a scholarship exam that waived my fees for a private school. I was one of just four girls in my class, while the 10 boys were both fascinated and repulsed by us in equal measure.

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"One boy pretended he really liked me, and spent hours buttering me up on MSN before asking me to show him my breasts on webcam - only for him to tell all the boys that I was 'flat-chested' and a 'slut' for doing so.

"I was too ashamed to tell the teachers, but it was clear whose side they would have taken - I was forever being told off for wearing my skirt 'too short', or being scolded for trying to get the boys' attention (I wasn't). When I answered back for being told off for my attire, one teacher said, 'Don't come crying to me if you get raped, then.'

"Another boy in the year below would regularly upskirt the girls, and take secret photos of them without them knowing. When his pictures were discovered, it was mostly laughed off. He was not punished, instead treated like a bit of a joker for doing so. The fact the girls felt violated was irrelevant. No one even bothered to ask how it made us feel.

"I'd like to think that neither boys, nor teachers, would get away with such behaviour nowadays. But reading reports and hearing about how young girls are made to feel in the classroom even now, it breaks my heart to see that nothing's really changed at all."

Almost 1,000 pupils across 32 schools took part in the Ofsted report (Credit: PA Images)
Almost 1,000 pupils across 32 schools took part in the Ofsted report (Credit: PA Images)

Jessica, 31, Surrey (left school in 2007)

"Sexual harassment wasn't part of our vernacular when I was at school, but in hindsight it was everywhere; the public bum-slapping that was supposed to be seen as a compliment. The Latin teacher who stared openly at our legs. The sixth-formers pressuring 14-year-old girls to perform sex acts on them in the woods.

"Then there was the time my crush (two years older than me) locked me in the toilet, unzipped his flies, and said he wouldn't let me leave unless I gave him a blowjob. It was the first time I'd seen a penis and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

"In the end I managed to appease him by touching it, before pushing past him and escaping through the door. I was branded as 'frigid' after that, and for a long time I felt I'd done something wrong, like not going all the way made me boring and prudish.

"I still think about it to this day, and it's devastating to know that things haven't got any better."

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

The Report Abuse in Education helpline can be reached on 0800 136 663 or by email at [email protected]

Unity Blott
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