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Sexual harassment amongst children fuelled by govt inaction on porn sites – campaigners say

Online Safety
10 June 2021
XXX

The UK Government’s failure to implement safeguards designed to stop children accessing porn sites and curb ‘extreme’ content has fuelled sexual harassment in schools, campaigners have said.

This morning, a devastating report by schools’ regulator Ofsted concluded that sexual harassment has become “normalised” among school-age children. It found that boys are sharing ‘nudes’ and girls are experiencing “unwanted touching in corridors”.

Ofsted visited 30 state and independent schools and two further education colleges and spoke to more than 900 young people. The new report states that 9 in 10 girls spoken to by inspectors reported sexist name-calling and being sent unwanted explicit images "a lot" or "sometimes".

Children reported that sexual violence typically occurred in unsupervised spaces outside of school, like parties or parks. James Mildred, Chief Communications Officer at CARE, stated that access to “vile” pornography and a failure by the government to regulate content is partially to blame:

“At present, children across the UK can access pornography sites very easily through browsers and social media apps. When they do, they are exposed to a catalogue of vile, degrading, and violent content. Is it any wonder, given this situation, that sexual harassment is so common in our schools?

“The truly depressing thing about this report is that the government could have prevented some of this. Legislation has been on the statue book since 2017 to require commercial porn sites to verify the age of their users and provide for a regulator of extreme content. For some inexplicable reason, Ministers have chosen not to implement these safeguards.

“Sexual harassment in schools requires action from school staff. They must be wise to the scale of the problem, encourage reporting and seek to imbue respect towards girls. We are confident that they will do this in the months ahead, with support from Ofsted and other groups.

“We call on Ministers to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act without delay. That they have failed to do so to this point is simply shameful.”

Criticism of the Government

Pressure has been mounting on the government to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act - even as an interim measure whilst its online safety regime is being prepared.

Earlier this month, a motion in the Scottish Parliament supported by 14 MSPs urged UK Ministers to act. Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said:

“How we keep our children safe online should be an absolute priority, so the failure to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 is a terrible reflection on the UK Government.

“Access to some of the most violent forms of illegal pornography normalises violence against women and girls at a young age, and will perpetuate the scandal of women in our society suffering abuse, violence and sexual attacks.

“The long list of those calling for the implementation should be a wake up call that this legislation needs to be enacted and enforced immediately, and I wholeheartedly support this call to action.”

In May, a letter to the Prime Minister signed by 60 groups and individuals including children's charities and women's groups warned that the failure to implement Part 3 has become "unsustainable":

“The last two months have raised very serious concerns about the safety of women and children in relation to sexual violence. While it is too early to talk in depth about what happened to Sarah Everard, it is clear from the outpouring of stories from women across the country following her death that a very large proportion of attacks on women are sexually motivated.

“We have also witnessed the impact of the 'Everyone's Invited' website, with over 10,000 rape culture testimonies and revelations about its impact on children through the recent Centre for Social Justice report.”

“In this context, given the growing body of research (including research commissioned by the Government) demonstrating a clear association between pornography consumption and a higher incidence of violence against women and girls, the failure to implement Part 3, in the absence of alternative protections, has become unsustainable.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For interview requests or more information please contact Jamie Gillies: jamie.gillies@care.org.uk // 07384467819

CARE is a well-established mainstream Christian charity providing resources and helping to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives. CARE is represented in the UK Parliaments and Assemblies.

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