Culture Shift statement on Everyone’s Invited and the uncovering of pervasive levels of sexual harassment and assault in UK schools and colleges:
After over 14,000 anonymous testimonies have been shared by school and college pupils about sexual harassment and a perceived ‘rape culture’ in our educational institutions, our CEO Gemma McCall responds to the story that’s shocked the world.
McCall said: “The Everyone’s Invited website has brought to light tens of thousands of accounts of sexual assault and abuse suffered by pupils up and down the country, some as young as 13. We stand in solidarity with all women and girls and thank them for the courage they’ve shown in sharing their stories. It is is unacceptable that this culture of abuse exists in our Educational Institutions - an environment that should be a safe haven for our children.
While the accounts themselves are shocking to read, the number of complaints is unfortunately not surprising to us at Culture Shift who have long known about the toxic culture of sexual harassment and sexual violence, as well as racial harassment and bullying, on University campuses. The lack of conversation and education about what constitutes a healthy relationship and help with understanding consent as well as understanding the role porn is playing in unofficially educating our young people in schools is proving to be incredibly harmful.
Gender-based violence has no place in society, and institutions who have been pretending it doesn’t exist now have the eyes of the world on them to ensure they acknowledge and take preventative action to stop it, otherwise we will have a generation of young women and girls who will suffer the consequences of inaction, or worse, of being silenced.
The recent news has reinforced the power and positive role anonymous reporting plays in removing barriers to sharing an experience.
14,133 (and counting) individuals have found the courage and bravery to voice their experience, safe in the knowledge that there won’t be any negative repercussions, and safe from the scrutiny and victim-blaming that often comes with reporting sexual assault. That has only happened because they’ve been given the platform to share their story anonymously.
I implore educational leaders to be more transparent about what’s going on in your organisation. At Culture Shift, we've seen first hand the positive impact it has when educational institutions share the trend data gathered through our anonymous reporting platform publicly. This transparency gives students and parents confidence in knowing the institution actively monitors issues, takes every report seriously, provides clarity about what action is being taken, and allows others to learn from their experiences.
It’s not good enough that institutions have waited until now to act. But, if this is the catalyst for change and school and college leaders make drastic changes today, then change can start to happen. If you continue to sweep these issues under the carpet, students and parents simply won’t engage with your institution.
Educate your student population on unacceptable behaviour, give them a safe place to speak out about anything they don’t think is right, and start working now towards eradicating ‘rape culture’ in your school or college.
My heartfelt thanks goes to the brave young survivors who have had the courage to share their experience. To the many more who don’t feel safe, or cannot yet find the words: we see you and we believe you. I hope as a nation we can work together to bring about the end of all sexual violence and abuse.”