Two schoolgirls launch Our Schools Now, a campaign seeking ‘cultural and educational change’, calling for mandatory education of street sexual harassment and violence in all UK schools
British schoolgirls and students have had enough. Enough of the unwanted sexual harassment and violence on public streets that they are subjected to on a daily basis.
Our Schools Now, the latest campaign from sisters and founders of Our Streets Now, Maya and Gemma Tutton, seeks to make teaching of street harassment and violence mandatory within the British curriculum, in PSHE/RSE lessons.
The campaign has today published a variety of resources for teachers and students alike to encourage institutions and leaders in education to take a stand against street harassment.
Releasing its findings from a study of 150 students and recent school leavers, the Our Schools Now report reveals a shocking insight into schoolchildren’s experience of harassment.
- Only 14% of students had been taught about public sexual harassment.
- 47% of students said they would not report an incident of public sexual harassment to their school either because they did not know or feared not being taken seriously by staff.
- 72% of pupils who did report public sexual harassment described receiving a negative response from their school, with the majority of participants stating that no real action was taken.
Our Schools Now is on a mission: “We hope to raise a new generation of girls who never blame themselves for the harassment they will likely face, and a generation of boys who never become perpetrators of this everyday violence.”
Their message is clear, and they work tirelessly, following four top priorities:
- To reduce the shame and stigma for victims of public street harassment (PSH).
- To prevent boys from ever becoming perpetrators of PSH.
- To tackle myths around victim blaming.
- To promote bystander intervention.
Having experienced sexual harassment in public, with their first experiences in their early teens, Maya and Gemma said: “We need to make sure that the next generation of children in the UK understand the prevalence and impact of public sexual harassment.
“As children and teenagers go back to school and the government’s mandatory sex education curriculum is introduced, we are urging schools to include public sexual harassment within their mandatory PSHE/RSE lessons.
“The rise of online and offline abuse as a consequence of the pandemic must not be allowed to further proliferate with the reduction of adequate sex education in response to schools being under pressure because of COVID-19.”
“In this country, you can get fined for dropping a cigarette on the street but not for harassing and intimidating a young girl on her way to school.”
Jess, a 19-year-old recent school leaver, details how sexual harassment education could have helped her manage some troubling experiences. “Travelling to and from school became a trip that was uncomfortable. I remember walking back from school in year nine, and these guys drove past and honked their horn and shouted at me.
“At the time I was so upset, uncomfortable and embarrassed and immediately blamed myself. Looking back, I know how beneficial it would have been to have been taught about public sexual harassment.”
Our Streets Now, a grassroots campaign founded by Maya and Gemma Tutton are calling for legislation against street harassment and violence, and for perpetrators to be held legally accountable.
In March 2019, street harassment was recognised as a form of gender-based violence by the UK Government, but is yet to be made illegal. Last year, co-founder Maya wrote, “In this country, you can get fined for dropping a cigarette on the street but not for harassing and intimidating a young girl on her way to school.” A statement that rings true for many of us.
With now more than 200,000 signatures, Our Streets Now is urging supporters to sign the Change.org petition for public sexual harassment to be made a criminal offence. This is calling for an ‘educational and cultural change’.
Support for sexual harassment and violence
If you’ve experienced sexual harassment and violence and need some support, there are organisations that can offer over-the-phone listening services and professional talking therapies.
You can get in touch with a Childline counsellor online or on the phone from 7.30am – midnight Monday – Friday, and 9am – midnight at the weekend. Call 0800 1111 or visit childline.org.uk
Sexual violence helpline offers free and confidential emotional support for anyone in London who identifies as a woman (aged 14+), and has been affected by any form of sexual violence. Freephone 0808 801 0770.
Counselling Directory offers a direct link between you and a professional therapist. Find a qualified therapist in your area via the link below.