Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Sexual Abuse: Britain's 'Watershed Moment'

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Sexual Abuse: Britain's 'Watershed Moment'

Article excerpt

As awareness of the issue grows, a report finds that schools can play a vital role in tackling it

Schools can play a significant role in stopping sexual abuse by teaching pupils how to protect themselves and giving them the confidence to report crimes, according to new research.

A study of programmes from across the world found that children who were taught about the dangers of abuse were more likely to tell an adult they had been targeted.

The research, commissioned by health information charity Cochrane, has led to calls for more preventative education in schools. Jon Brown, head of sexual abuse programmes at children's charity NSPCC, said they were crucial to the process.

"Schools are spaces of universal provision, meaning they have a critical role to play in preventing sexual abuse," he said. "And while I have sympathy with teachers who say they just want to teach, you can't ignore the fact that children will be coming in with stuff that has been going on outside."

After the litany of recent high-profile cases in areas such as Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford, the country was at a "watershed" moment in its battle against abuse, Mr Brown added.

"We have seen an increase in the number of young people contacting our helplines following these cases. There has been an increase in awareness and I think we're at a watershed moment in our attempts both to crack down on sexual abuse and to encourage young people to step forward," he said.

The study, released this week, looks at preventative programmes used in schools in the US, Canada, China, Germany, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey, reaching more than 5,800 children in total. Researchers found that about 14 in every 1,000 children disclosed sexual abuse if they received some teaching on the subject, as opposed to just 4 in every 1,000 children who did not. Schools used a variety of methods to teach pupils about abuse, including films, plays, songs, puppets, books and games.

The study also found that increasing children's knowledge meant that they were more likely than their peers to take measures to protect themselves against such abuse. …

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