The recent screening of Three Girls, BBC One’s drama based on the grooming and sexual abuse of girls in Rochdale shows how victim-blaming impedes justice for victims. More than a third of the public believe that if a woman goes out late at night wearing a short skirt, gets drunk and then is the victim of a sexual assault, she is partly or totally to blame. (source: Sounds Familiar, the Fawcett Society).
Here Rachel Bell reports on the statistics and what Margate-based domestic abuse service Oasis is doing to tackle the issue:
Margate-based domestic abuse service, Oasis, has launched a new workshop for young people aged 7-18 focusing on helping children understand consent, what makes a healthy and an unhealthy relationship, as well as exploring the dangers of grooming. The interactive workshops named Just So You Know, will also help pupils build resilience to grooming and abuse by teaching the importance of assertiveness.
“It means that young people are more equipped to recognise and deal with these issues as they arise in their current and future relationships,” says Diane May of the Early Intervention and Prevention team who run the workshops.
‘Teen relationship abuse is a huge issue’
As children become sexually active teenagers, many have a woefully poor grasp on the meaning of consent. Teen relationship abuse is a huge issue. A 2009 NSPCC survey found that more than a quarter of girls aged 13 to 17 had experienced intimate partner violence whilst young people aged 16-24 are at the greatest risk of suffering domestic abuse. ‘Sex object culture’ in which girls are sexualised at an increasingly younger age, gender stereotypes that equate being a ‘real man’ with aggression and mainstream hardcore porn, which eroticises non-consent, have filled the gap in Sex and Relationships Education.
A 2016 MPs Inquiry found that school itself is a key site for sexism and sexual harassment. The Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry into Sexual Violence in UK Schools found that sexual bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault are rife. Nearly 60% of girls aged 13-21 faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college, almost a third of 16-18 year-old girls experience unwanted sexual touching and nearly three-quarters of them hear sexist name-calling. A 2015 police report also found there were 5.500 sexual assaults, including 600 rapes in UK schools, in a three year period. The government responded and on 1 March this year, Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) will be compulsory in all secondary schools and Relationships Education (RE) compulsory in primary schools from 2019.
In the meantime, the Oasis workshop for schools is having hugely positive effects. In a group of 23 pupils, just six reported feeling ‘confident’ in identifying tactics used by potential groomers, rising to 18 in the second session. In the same group of 23, four pupils reported that they have been able to identify unhealthy traits in their own or others relationships, rising to 18 in the second session. And in a group of 23 pupils, those who reported a ‘good understanding of consent’ rose from six in the first session to 19 in the second session, an increase of 216%. Positive statements showing an understanding of the dynamics of victim blaming and the right to be assertive in uncomfortable situations include: “Just remember, if something bad happens to you it wasn’t your fault. It was the fault of the person who did the bad thing,”, “Always stand your ground and don’t give in ”and “Both boys and girls can feel pressure to participate in sexual activities that make them feel uncomfortable.”
Educating the young
Just So You Know is one of numerous Early Intervention and Prevention programmes Oasis offer to help reach children and young people build safe, consensual relationships – and understand that domestic abuse can entail controlling words and behaviours, threats and pressure as well as physical violence.
Educating boys and men to understand that they do not have entitlements to women’s bodies and empowering girls with the tools to never be an easy target of male violence should and must be a priority to end all forms of violence against women and girls.
Education, not blame, around positive, non-violent masculinity can transform boys’ attitudes to girls and women and help them enjoy healthy friendships and relationships. Building happy and healthy communities is at the heart of Oasis’ vision and the Just So You Know workshop is available for school and youth settings. To book a workshop contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Statistics on rape and porn culture
Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; 1,700 of those who contact Rape Crisis are aged 15 or under while a third are under 25
Only 8% of rapes are stranger rapes
Conviction rates for rape are lower than for any other crime – around 5.7%
Half of all girls and women report being sexually harassed on the streets
Children aged 12-17 form the single largest group of mainstream pornography consumers
The average age boys view porn is 11
Sexual violence in Thanet
Thanet has the highest number of domestic abuse incidents in Kent and the most reported rape cases in east Kent
In 2015, 114 reports of rape (reported rapes are just a fraction) were made in Thanet with just three convictions.
Follow Rachel Bell on Twitter @BettyBandit