Claire Lilley, head of child safety online at the charity, said: “The levels of victimisation revealed by this research shows action is urgently needed by the government to make updated sex and relationship education a statutory right for every child and young person.
There needs to be a greater focus in schools on topics such as sexual exploitation and violence against girls and young women, as part of a balanced curriculum.
These included evidence from the parent of a girl who had been sexually assaulted and harassed throughout primary and secondary school; the parent of a young woman sexually assaulted by a male peer and who struggled to gain any support from the school; and the parent of an 11 year old girl sexually assaulted and blackmailed by male peers at school.
Young people who gave evidence to us noted the ubiquity of sexual harassment in school: I guess the thing that people would say they see the most, and we see as well, is slapping of bums and flicking [lifting up] of skirts. There is also derogative term calling—calling women bitches and stuff like that—which is also a common thing that you see in school, on a daily basis really.
The research in England was undertaken between 2013-2015 by a team of researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Central Lancashire.
The study, was also carried out in Norway, Italy, Bulgaria and Cyprus as well as England.
One Birmingham teacher told us: I have had many young girls sobbing and humiliated in my office because partially naked images have gone viral.
“The high rates of sexual coercion discovered need to be addressed through education and awareness raising that challenges attitudes and helps change behaviour.
We need to nurture children to have positive relationships based on mutual respect.” The highest rates of sexual coercion were reported by teenage girls in England.
I know of pupils, boys and girls, who have been sexually assaulted and felt too ashamed to come forward and tell an adult.
A lunchtime supervisor at a middle school explained how prevalent sexual harassment was in her school: In the Year Eight and Seven playground I hear constant sexual language particularly from the boys. The girls seem resigned to this treatment and when I have spoken to them about it they say none of the teachers listen.