Tender’s response to the House of Commons sexual violence in schools report

House of Commons Women & Equalities Committee Sexual Harassment and sexual violence in schools Report September 2016.

Tender welcomes the release of the report by the Select Committee of its inquiry into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools.

For 13 years Tender has worked in schools to prevent abuse and violence in the lives of young people. This report echoes and reinforces what we have been hearing from children over that time and we hope that the report will act as a spotlight to draw attention of the wider public to an issue that has been damaging the wellbeing of generations of children.

Tender believes that in order for these recommendations to bear fruit:

• Support in the form of resources and funding must be made available for schools to act. Schools should be seen as a fantastic opportunity to keep children safe from sexual violence, but this can only happen if teachers have time, confidence and skills to really make a difference. They need to be able to work with external agencies to build those skills.

• There must be a consistent message throughout all Sex and Relationship teaching that gender inequality sits at the heart of the problem of sexual violence. In order to address this inequality, boys and girls must be equipped with a language to articulate what they want in relationships and to speak out when things go wrong; they must have access to conversations about healthy, safe and pleasurable sex. Pornography holds hostage the space where young people are finding out about sex. It is alarming, frightening and we must take action to reclaim that space. We mustn’t let our embarrassment of starting those awkward conversations, be the door that closes when a young person is trying to find out accurate information.

• And finally, let’s put some of the myths to rest:
Good sex and relationship education is not taking away the innocence of childhood – instead, let us ask – at what age do we want to start protecting our children?

Sexual harassment is not “horse play”; once upon a time casual racism was part of society – on television, joked about in the pub. Let us reach a point where we are as shocked by a girl being called a slag as we would be if someone used a racist term. We would not call it a ‘bit of banter’, or excuse it as ‘hormone driven experimenting’. We would call it what it is. Victims of sexual violence have been silenced by these attitudes; let’s make sure they get their voice back.

Tender looks forward to hearing a response from Theresa May and the Department for Education to confirm next steps based on the recommendations set out in the Report and to playing our part in ensuring we make a difference to our young people.

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