Our Schools: Are They Doing Enough?
With Stay Brave UK currently developing educational packages for schools to educate and reduce the stigma amongst the younger generation in regards to abuse, we decided to investigate what educational institutions are currently doing to raise awareness, and what they should be doing more of.
It was not until 2012 that the definition of domestic abuse was changed in order to be inclusive of 16-18 year olds, and research has shown that it is young people aged 15-24 who are at a higher risk of domestic abuse than any other age group.
People who have a mental health problem or are in a same-sex relationship are also at a higher risk, and sadly — in 2009 — 72% of girls and 51% of boys aged 13 to 16 said they had experienced emotional violence within their relationship. This means the majority of this age bracket were abused, rather than the minority. It should not be like this.
Schools need to be doing more to raise awareness of these issues, but at the moment this awareness appears to be limited.
There is currently a safeguarding policy in place, which contains information, advice, and training for teachers and school staff. This outlines the responsibilities schools must undertake - namely “helping children understand how to stay safe from abuse”. Abuse does not always have to be picked up by the teachers; healthy friendships are encouraged within schools and their ethe, in the hope that peers, too, can detect signs of abuse. The NSPCC recommends that their schools organise talks with all staff to raise awareness of risk factors, signs that they should look out for, and other resources they can use.
At the same time, education can take place within the classroom, starting with the children themselves. In secondary schools, awareness of unhealthy relationships, as well as sexual exploitation and grooming, is not currently compulsory to teach — the NSPCC, again, can only recommend for schools to include this within their curriculums. Awareness of sexual bullying, not just non-sexual bullying, should be taught — in a world where peer pressure and how you are viewed is huge, it seems irresponsible to not openly discuss these with the teenagers of our schools.
At the moment, some schools are relying on volunteers to come in to their institutions and talk about abuse with their students. Whilst this does mean awareness is being created, ultimately it shows that the schools themselves are not sufficiently educated. Prevention starts with education.
The organisation Refuge recently wrote in a report that research has shown that “the deeply rooted attitudes that tolerate domestic violence continue to be held and it is generally agreed that schools are the ideal place to challenge these attitudes”.
Refuge performed a study asking a series of questions about domestic abuse to women aged 18-21 within Higher Education. The results showed that if their partner told them what to wear, only 34% would regard that as domestic abuse. If their partner took their money, only half would perceive that as domestic abuse. 40% would not see it as abuse if their partner tried to stop them from seeing their friends or families. A quarter would deem it acceptable if their possessions were destroyed. More upsettingly, nearly 10% would not see it as a form of abuse if their partner made them take part in sexual acts that they did not want to take part of.
If we educate our children, we can change this — we can teach men and women that having a partner, or indeed anybody within your life, treat you this way is wrong, and we can hopefully teach the abusers that it is wrong before they even become abusers.
Education is certainly prevention. It can encourage people to speak out. It can provide resources for those who want help but do not know how or where to seek it. I am sure when I say that the educational packages Stay Brave UK creates will have a positive effect within schools. More awareness needs to be raised.
It starts in the classroom.
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