Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges
Sexual violence refers to crimes under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and includes: rape, assault by penetration and sexual assault; whilst sexual harassment incorporates a wider range of ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’, such as: sexual comments or lewd “jokes”, sexualised bullying, non-consensual taking or sharing of sexual images/videos (such as upskirting), or physical behaviour such as: deliberately brushing against someone or ‘pinging’ bra straps.
‘Upskirting’ involves taking a picture under someone’s clothing without them knowing; this is usually with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks for sexual gratification, or cause the victim humiliation, distress or alarm. It is a criminal offence. Anyone of any gender, can be a victim.
Sexual violence and sexual harassment can/may:
- Occur between two children of any age and sex
- Be physical and/or verbal
- Occur online and/or offline
- Be perpetrated by individuals or groups, against individuals or groups
- Be a standalone incident, or part of a wider pattern of sexualised behaviour
- Be perpetrated against some children more than others, such as: girls, children with SEND or LGBT children.
Children who are victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment may feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated and will probably find the experience stressful and distressing; this is likely to adversely affect their educational engagement and attainment.
Schools and settings should clearly communicate and demonstrate that this type of behaviour is/will not:
- An inevitable part of growing up
- Be dismissed as “banter” or normalised.
When responding to a concern about sexual violence or harassment between children, it is important that all victims are taken seriously and offered appropriate support. Staff should follow their usual child protection procedures and follow the referral process.