Sexual Harassment and Online Abuse Pervasive in U.K. Schools, Review Finds

The investigation, which relied on accounts from 900 students, found that sexual harassment — from sexist name-calling to requests for explicit photos — was endemic.,

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LONDON — Sexual harassment and online sexual abuse has become so endemic in the lives of young people in Britain that it has effectively become normalized, students told a government review released on Thursday, another troubling sign of a problem that threatens them in schools, online and in their everyday lives.

About 90 percent of girls from 32 schools and colleges who were interviewed by education regulators said that sexist name calling and incidents where they were sent explicit material had happened at least “sometimes,” and students said that education for sexual health and relationships was inadequate.

The review came after a campaign by the online platform Everyone’s Invited earlier this year, in which thousands of young women and girls in Britain shared harrowing testimonies of sexual violence, sexism and misogyny they experienced as students.

Such behavior was so commonplace, some students told government inspectors, that they did not see a point in reporting it, and the fear of being isolated by their peers outweighed trying to stop the behavior.

Many girls reported that they were asked repeatedly to share explicit photos of themselves, and that boys talked about the images they had received from girls and shared them in online chat groups with their friends, like a “collection game.”

The review of 900 students found that harmful sexual behavior often happened at parks or parties, where drugs and alcohol were often involved.

Relationship and sexual health education in schools was also “too little, too late,” students said, and noted that it did not equip them with the skills needed for the difficult situations in their lives. Some students said they feared reporting unwanted harassment to adults or staff in schools because they feared being ostracized by their peers or blamed for the behavior.

The Department of Education, which commissioned the review in March, said it would dedicate more resources to train staff at schools and colleges to better recognize sexual harassment and abuse, as well as educate students on issues around consent, pornography and health relationship.

Schools and college officials should assume that sexual harassment is taking place, the review concluded, and it recommended a series of measures including a “carefully sequenced” curriculum on relationships and sexual health that included a discussion of topics like sexual harassment, sexual violence, and consent.

That conclusion was a “positive step forward for the eradication of rape culture,” Everyone’s Invited said in a statement. But many of the points raised in the report have been longstanding problems, the group added.

“We’ve had reports in the past and nothing has happened,” the statement said. “What’s different now?”

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