New advice for schools about supporting young victims of peer to peer sexual violence and harassment

Posted on 18 May 2018

The Department for Education have released their revised guidance for schools and colleges on how to keep children safe. This guidance now includes advice about dealing with peer based sexual violence and harassment in their schools. Our blog looks at this guidance document and puts it in context with findings from Childnet’s Project deSHAME.

The revised statutory guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) will come into effect for schools and colleges on 3 September 2018.

The advice on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment between Children in Schools and Colleges  is also published today, and is available immediately to support schools and colleges in their response to these issues.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) 

The revised Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance now provides additional advice to help school and college staff deal with allegations of child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment. This guidance was created after a 10-week public consultation.

This new guidance will be able to be used by all schools, including primary schools, for help with how to best support children of all ages.

To further support schools and colleges put effective safeguarding measures in place, the Department for Education has also committed to setting up a working group to consider how online safety advice can be further integrated throughout the statutory guidance.

Project deSHAME

We welcome this advice on responding to sexual violence and harassment, and the specific focus on peer on peer abuse. Through our work on Project deSHAME, we found that peer on peer online sexual harassment can take a range of different forms, and have a long lasting effect on those who experience or witness it.

As part of Project deSHAME we conducted research of over 1,500 teenagers in the UK, finding that:

  • 23% of 13-17s said they have seen people secretly taking sexual pictures of someone and sharing them online - 10% admitted they have done this themselves.
  • Over half of UK respondents aged 13-17 years (51%) said they have witnessed people their age circulating nude or nearly nude images of someone they know, while 6% have been the target of this behaviour.
  • Almost a third of girls ages 13-17 years (31%) have received unwanted sexual messages online from their peers (compared to 11% of boys) in the last year
  • 1 in 10 of UK respondents aged 13-17 years (10%) have received sexual threats online, including rape threats, from people their age in the last year, while 31% have witnessed this happening.
  • 1 in 10 of UK respondents aged 13-17 years (10%) have received sexual threats online, including rape threats, from people their age in the last year, while 31% have witnessed this happening.

Our recent work on Project deSHAME has shown the extent and impact of peer on peer sexual harassment that can happen online, emphasising the need for schools and colleges to effectively prevent and respond to this pressing issue.

In our research of online sexual harassment young people told us about their experiences online and the effect that it has had on them:

“It passes on, everyone has friends, those friends have friends, and it all links back…The internet makes it such a small world.” - Boy, 17 years, UK

We are very pleased that our Youth Advisory Board were able to add their feedback to the new guidance and we hope that schools will adapt it to the needs of their own communities.

Read the Childnet response to the KCSIE consultation

Project deSHAME aims to increase reporting of online sexual harassment among minors and improve multi-sector cooperation in preventing and responding to this behaviour. As part of this project, Childnet will be developing teaching resources and guidance for schools and teachers to address online sexual harassment.

Further resources for schools and colleges

Childnet has developed a range of educational materials to support schools in teaching online safeguarding as part of SRE and PSHE, which are available for free on the Childnet website. These include:

  • Early Years/Key Stage 1: Digiduck’s Big Decision, an illustrated story book about friendships, including online.
  • Smartie the Penguin stories, encourage children to tell someone if they have a problem or are worried about something online.
  • The Adventures of Captain Kara and the SMART crew – five cartoons that teach the key SMART rules on keeping safe online with KS2 pupils.
  • Crossing the Line, a PSHE Toolkit: developed with support from the EU and the GEO, these four short films and accompanying resources/lesson plans, are designed to engage children in discussions around sexting, homophobic cyberbullying, peer pressure and self-esteem.
  • Picture This (Drama activity about sexting) - A practical educational sexting resource that addresses and questions the sensitive issue of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically with 11-16 year olds.
  • Developing children’s critical thinking around online content, contact and propaganda in Trust Me, a resource about critical thinking online for teachers working with primary and secondary school children.
  • Childnet Digital Leaders Programme, empowering young people to become peer educators and active agents in their school community.
  • There are also resources for parents, including how to talk to your child about online pornography.
  • Childnet also produced an award-winning film, Let’s Fight It Together, made for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and this resource that has been used in schools right across the country and also right across the world. It focusses on the prevention and response to cyberbullying.
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