British schools: tackling “rape culture”

 

British schools: tackling “rape culture”

For female students, walking around Latymer Upper – an independent school in west London – could be a frightening experience, said Ben Ellery in The Times. Former pupils have described being surrounded by boys in corridors, pushed into corners, and groped. At weekends, they say they were expected to perform sex acts on boys at parties. The boys would then write “slut” on their lockers. These accounts are disturbing, but Latymer (which is holding an inquiry into these and other allegations) is only one of a slew of schools that have been accused of being hotbeds of misogynistic bullying and sexual violence. Former pupils of Westminster School have compiled a dossier containing scores of abuse allegations. In an even longer dossier, Highgate School is accused of ignoring and even silencing victims of alleged abuse. Dulwich College has been described in an open letter by a former (male) pupil as a “breeding ground for sexual predators”. To date, more than 5,500 testimonies have appeared on the website set up by Soma Sara, 22, which first exposed the alleged “rape culture” in schools.

Tapping through the anonymous (unverified) testimonies on Everyone’s Invited is “as gutwrenching as it is sobering”, said Saffron Swire on Reaction.life. Time and again, we read of schools where girls were routinely rated from one to ten for their looks; where boys lifted their skirts, and “joked” about gang rape. There are also countless accounts of girls being pressured into sharing “nudes”, which were then circulated; coerced or forced into sex acts; and even raped.

It has been suggested that the problem is one of over-privileged boys with a toxic sense of entitlement. But this is not a phenomenon unique to private schools, said Jessica Murray in The Guardian. According to a 2017 report, a quarter of girls at mixed-sex schools have been subjected to unwanted touching at school. So, how to deal with it? A number of people have argued that schools need to do more to teach boys, and girls, about consent, respect and combating peer pressure, said Phil Robinson in The Times. But parents have a responsibility too, to pay attention to their boys, and help them grow into decent men. That means, among other things, explaining to them, from the age of 11, that porn is not real, and bears no resemblance to normal sexual relations; and having open, informal conversations at home about how women and girls are and should be treated. The key is to not to shame or embarrass them: if boys feel they’re being got at, they may shut you out, just when they need your input the most.

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