Dr. Fiona Vera-Gray, co-founder of the Centre for Gender Equal Media at Durham University (GEM), will be giving evidence today to the Women and Equalities Select Committee Inquiry into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools.
There is an urgent need for schools to be required to take action in this area. Data published in September 2015 showed that 5,500 sexual offences were recorded in UK schools over a three year period, including 600 rapes. A 2014 survey by Girl Guiding UK found that 59% of young women aged 13-21 had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year.
Dr. Vera-Gray, a former Rape Crisis worker, will be drawing on her expertise developed over ten years in delivering sexual violence prevention to young people, to inform MPs that schools must be required to address the way media, including online pornography, reinforces gender inequality and shapes and influences the lives of young people..
Dr. Vera-Gray says:
A range of media, eg music videos, online pornography, social media, forms the backdrop of young people’s lives. Young people now spend more than double the amount of time online than they did 10 years ago. Much of this online time is occurring on school grounds including, for example, accessing pornography and image-based sexual abuse (including ‘revenge porn’), making clear that addressing the role of media in sexual violence in schools is firmly within safeguarding responsibilities. The tide of sexist and harmful media images and messages both legitimates and facilitates forms of violence against women and girls.
Professor Clare McGlynn, legal expert in image-based sexual abuse and co-founder of the Centre for Gender Equal Media, says:
‘The Centre for Gender Equal Media at Durham University urges the Select Committee to recognise the vital role of media sexism and racism in sustaining a culture of sexual harassment and violence in our schools. Image-based sexual abuse (including ‘revenge porn’) is a particularly pernicious form of online harassment in schools. Recent FOI data gathered by the BBC found that 30% of victims were under 19 years old and many victims withdrew their complaints. GEM has launched a campaign to grant all victims of image-based sexual abuse automatic anonymity to encourage more to come forward and continue prosecutions.’
GEM’s written submission is also now publically available and can be accessed from 09.45 on the 7th June here.
The oral evidence session begins at 10.30am on the 7th of June and is available to watch here