Alicia Munckton

Do schools really have a problem with sexual violence?

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I hadn’t heard of Everyone’s Invited until a few weeks ago, despite being mother to a 15-year-old girl. I was a little surprised to learn that the forum making the front pages, on which predominantly teenaged schoolgirls share their experiences of every-day sexism, sexual harassment and worse, was actually founded in June last year. The site received no prominence until it went viral following the death of Sarah Everard.

As I write, the testimonies of those Wikipedia is terming ‘survivors of rape culture’ number almost 14,000. That the connection made between a horrifying yet rare occurrence and an ‘endemically’ misogynistic society might be tenuous is an argument that cannot be advanced — as those who have raised the mildest of objections have discovered to their cost.

We appear to be in the grip of a full-blown moral panic, with parents told to shop their sons to the police and Ofsted threatening the schools named with potential closure over perceived safeguarding failures. To open any newspaper is to read that our educational establishments are awash with vile, even criminal male behaviour. Throughout universities, private boarding schools, state secondary schools and even primary schools the message is that no girl is safe.

Does a ‘rape culture’ really pervade our infant school classrooms? Read beyond the splash and a somewhat less shocking picture emerges. Excepting a small number of more serious claims, typically involving older boys outside of a school setting, the reports I read mostly told of little boys pulling — or peering — up little girls’ skirts. We are in danger of conflating very different types of incident — or at least of spinning the latter as the thin end of a wedge.

‘I was thinking of a fortnight in the office…’

Such things happened in my primary school and in those of everyone I’ve asked.

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