Sexual violence and sexual harassment Policy
This policy is written with reference to sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in Schools and Colleges. Advice for governing bodies, proprietors, headteachers, principals, senior leadership teams and Designated Safeguarding Leads May 2018. It is also updated to reflect findings from a review carried out by Ofsted and DfE April 2021 (Published June 2021).
In this review the DfE have outlined that Teachers and School leaders will be better supported to recognise sexual harassment and abuse and teach confidently about issues of consent, online pornography and healthy relationships.
School and College leaders will be encouraged to dedicate inset day time to help train staff on how to deal with sexual abuse and harassment among pupils and how to deliver the Government’s new compulsory Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum (RSHE).
Strengthened safeguarding guidance will also be introduced to boost teacher confidence in identifying and responding to these issues, as well as supervision to dedicated members of School and College staff in up to 10 more local authorities, whose role it is to identify safeguarding concerns among pupils, with a specific focus on sexual abuse.
The measures come as Ofsted publishes the findings from its thematic review into sexual abuse in education, commissioned by the Education Secretary in March 2021 following testimonies posted on the Everyone’s Invited website which highlighted cases of sexual abuse and harassment of children and young people, including in education settings.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
Sexual abuse in any form is completely unacceptable. No young person should feel that this is a normal part of their daily lives – Schools are places of safety, not harmful behaviours that are tolerated instead of tackled.
Ofsted’s review has rightly highlighted where we can take specific and urgent action to address sexual abuse in education. But there are wider societal influences at play, meaning Schools and Colleges cannot be expected to tackle these issues alone.
By reflecting young people’s real experiences in what they are taught, I hope more people feel able to speak up where something isn’t right and call out activity that might previously have been written off as ‘normal’.
In its 8-week review, Ofsted looked at safeguarding measures in Schools and Colleges, as well as assessing whether extra support is needed for teaching about sex and relationships, working alongside social care, Police, victim support groups, education leaders and the Independent Schools Council.
Ofsted’s findings demonstrate that incidents of harassment and abuse have been ‘normalised’ by their frequency, with the majority of more than 900 children and young people surveyed experiencing some kind of unsolicited images or sexist comments – whether in person at School or College, or online or via mobile phone.
To address this, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden have asked the Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza to join a roundtable discussion in the coming weeks with tech companies, law enforcement, children’s charities and Schools to talk about preventative measures ahead of legislation on age restrictions for app downloading and sharing, and how to support parents and children to make more informed and safer choices online.
Building on the work that the Government has set out in the Online Safety Bill, it follows a joint letter to Dame Rachel from Mr Williamson and Mr Dowden asking her to support the Government’s drive to protect children from harmful online content and to ensure the voices of children are heard and represented in this work.
This will include working with Schools, parents and charities to support them around building strong social norms against underage access to pornography, around children using the internet safely and educating those groups on the impact that some internet content can have on healthy sex and relationships.
Children’s Commissioner Rachel de Souza said:
The most fundamental responsibility that education settings have is to keep children safe. There needs to be a clear focus on preventing peer-on-peer abuse from happening in the first place, as well as providing timely and sensitive support to those affected. The contributors to ‘Everyone’s Invited’ showed great courage in sharing their stories of abuse and harassment. Now is the time for these stories to be met with action.
I am pleased to see Ofsted calling for a whole School and College approach to this issue and I look forward to working with them, the Department for Education, education settings and their safeguarding partners to help make the commitments and recommendations set out in this report a reality.
The Online Safety Bill will enshrine in law a ground-breaking new system of accountability and oversight of tech companies, where companies will need to prevent children from accessing and minimise inappropriate content, such as pornography and online bullying.
On 10 June 2021, the Department for Education has confirmed it will take forward work to strengthen the RSHE curriculum so that teachers are clearer on when different elements should be taught, such as sharing images online and consent, as well as updating statutory guidance to ensure that the definitions used are in line with what pupils understand and experience.
In addition, to ensure continuity in the offer of a safe space for victims of sexual abuse to receive professional advice or to refer matters to authorities, the NSPCC ‘Abuse in Education’ helpline will also run for a further four months until October.
Launched on April 1 2021 alongside the Ofsted Review, the helpline will ensure that young people who may have experienced abuse at School or any other victim of recent or non-recent sexual abuse can receive the immediate support and guidance they require. As of 7 June 2021, the helpline had received 426 calls and helpline staff have made 80 referrals to external agencies like the Police or social services.
A trial already running in 30 areas will be extended to up to 10 new local authorities to provide supervision for Designated Safeguarding Leads, working with up to a further 500 Schools, including independent Schools, with a specific focus on sexual abuse.
The programme aims to strengthen support for Dedicated Safeguarding Leads, improve individual safeguarding practices and enable better joined up working across different agencies. The programme will also help build the evidence base on what works in supporting safeguarding leads. At the same time, work is underway to raise the profile of the role in the same way as the role of a SENCO.
All children have a right to be safe from sexual and other forms of abuse. The Government’s Stop Abuse Together Campaign is working to stop child sexual abuse, and offers support and guidance to anyone that needs it. For further advice visit gov.uk: Stop Abuse Together.
Following the advice provided by the Department for Education (the department). Its focus is child on child sexual violence and sexual harassment in Schools and Colleges. The advice covers children of all ages, from the primary through secondary stage and into Colleges. For the purposes of this advice, a child is anyone under the age of 18. Whilst the focus of the advice is on protecting and supporting children, Schools and Colleges should of course protect any adult students and engage with adult social care, support services and the Police as required.
The advice sets out what sexual violence and sexual harassment is, how to minimise the risk of it occurring and what to do when it does occur, or is alleged to have occurred. The advice highlights best practice and cross-references other advice, statutory guidance and the legal framework. It is for individual Schools and Colleges to develop their own policies and procedures. It is important that policies and procedures are developed in line with their legal obligations, including the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010, especially the Public Sector Equality Duty.
This policy should be read along with Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service Anti-Bullying Policy, Safeguarding Policy, Online Safety Policy, Single Equality Policy, Behaviour Policy and Personal Social Health Education (including Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) ), Culture, Citizenship and Community (including British Values) and Enterprise &Employability Curriculum Policy.
At Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service we aim to reflect sexual violence and sexual harassment in our whole School approach to safeguarding and in our Safeguarding and child protection policy. We will update in light of changes to Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020 and continue to keep this Policy under review, particularly when reviewing our Relationship Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), Personal Social Health and Economic (PSHE) and Pathway to Adulthood Curriculum.
This Policy should be for the whole School and implemented by the Proprietors of KS Education Limited who are also the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher of Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service.
This should be read as part of our approach to protecting children from sexual violence and sexual harassment.
Victims and alleged perpetrators
There are many different ways to describe children who have been subjected to sexual violence and/or sexual harassment and many ways to describe those who are alleged to have carried out any form of abuse.
For the purposes of this Policy, we use the term ‘victim’. It is a widely recognised and understood term. It is important that at Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service, we recognise that not everyone who has been subjected to sexual violence and/or sexual harassment considers themselves a victim or would want to be described in this way. Ultimately, we should be conscious of this when managing any incident and be prepared to use any term with which the individual child is most comfortable.
For the purpose of this Policy we use the term ‘alleged perpetrator’ and where appropriate ‘perpetrator’. These are widely used and recognised terms and the most appropriate to aid effective drafting of Policy. However, we should think very carefully about terminology, especially when speaking in front of children. As above, the use of appropriate terminology will be for us to determine, as appropriate, on a case-by-case basis.
Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children
The evidence based on Ofsted Review of sexual abuse in Schools and Colleges Published 10 June 2021
Nationally collected statistics show that there has been a sharp increase in reporting of child sexual abuse to the Police in recent years. Figures that include all child sexual abuse cases show that the Police recorded over 83,000 child sexual abuse offences (including obscene publications) in the year ending March 2020.This is an increase of approximately 267% since 2013. Research estimates that approximately one quarter of cases of all child sexual abuse involve a perpetrator under the age of 18.
Although anyone can experience sexual harassment and violence, research indicates that girls are disproportionately affected. For example, 90% of recorded offences of rape in 2018–19 of 13- to 15-year-olds were committed against girls. In the past year, girls aged between 15 and 17 reported the highest annual rates of sexual abuse for young people and children aged 25 and younger.
It is hard to get an accurate picture of the scale and nature of sexual harassment and violence between children and young people in Schools and Colleges, as there is no centralised data collection of incidents and crime statistics are not published with a level of analysis to shed any light on this. It would be helpful if this information was available routinely.
In 2016, the Women and Equalities Select Committee highlighted a number of surveys reporting that girls were experiencing high levels of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including online, in Schools and Colleges. Similarly, a survey of children and young people in 2017 found that over a third of female students at mixed-sex secondary Schools have personally experienced some form of sexual harassment at School.
Three sources of information that were available for this review are: published School exclusions data, Ofsted complaints data and an FOI request made to the Police in 2015 by the BBC.
Published School exclusions data shows:
Sexual harassment and violence between peers and where perceptions differ
During the visits, Ofsted gathered the views of approximately 900 children and young people in focus groups. Of those, they surveyed just over 800 children and young people aged 13 and above about their perceptions of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including online sexual abuse.
Children and young people tended to talk about the issues that were the most common in their lives, which were typically sexual harassment and online sexual abuse. However, they are aware of the significant impact that sexual violence has on some children and young people’s lives and they heard several distressing examples from DSLs as part of this review.
The girls who responded to the questionnaire indicated that, in order of prevalence, the following types of harmful sexual behaviours happened ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes’ between people their age:
Non-contact forms, but face-to-face:
Non-contact forms, online or on social media:
These findings are strongly supported by existing research into harmful sexual behaviour between peers.
Boys were much less likely to think these things happened, particularly contact forms of harmful sexual behaviour.
Generally, older teens (aged 16 and above) were more likely to say that sexual harassment and violence, including online, between peers was prevalent than younger teens (aged 13 to 15) were. For example, 79% of young people aged 16 to 17 and 86% of those aged 18 and above said that rumours about sexual activity occurred a lot or sometimes between peers compared with 61% of those aged 13 to 15. Similarly, 54% of those aged 16 and above said unwanted touching occurred a lot or sometimes, compared with 40% of 13- to 15-year-olds. While figures are high for both groups, this increase could suggest that sexual harassment and violence, including online, happen more as children and young people grow older, or that they become more aware of them.
In terms of sexualised language, children and young people told us that ‘slag’ and ‘slut’ were commonplace and that homophobic language was also used in School. Many felt that staff either were not aware of this language, dismissed it as ‘banter’ or simply were not prepared to tackle it. Many also commented that they would be wary of tackling their peers’ use of this language, even when they did not feel comfortable with such terms. Sometimes, children and young people themselves saw the use of derogatory language as ‘banter’ or ‘just a joke’. In one School, the girls spoke of lots of ‘cat calling’, often focused on their bodies, their hair colour, their size or whether they were wearing glasses. In another, girls said that boys used terms such as ‘flat, curvy or sick’ to describe them and girls found this derogatory. In another, children and young people reported boys giving girls marks out of 10 based on their physical appearance while they were travelling to and from School together.
Some children, young people and staff mentioned sexual and sexist comments happening in corridors. Some girls felt uncomfortable when boys walked behind them up stairs and in stairwells where people can see up their skirts from below.
Boys in another School said that they felt anxious when walking behind girls or women, including out of School, as they did not want the girls to feel at risk, so tended to cross the road or move away.
In another School, girls said that they were ‘touched up’ regularly in crowded corridors. Some named the areas of the College or School where they felt wary of being – either because they were out of sight of staff or because they felt uncomfortable with the people who ‘hang around’ there.
Overall, children and young people tended to say that they felt physically safe at College or School, although there was a clear emotional impact on girls who experienced regular sexual harassment or other harmful sexual behaviour.
Some Schools on visits had existing LGBT+ pupil groups that were willing to speak to us. LGBT+ children and young people in those groups also reported a big gap between staff’s knowledge of incidents and their daily experience of harmful sexual behaviour. Homophobic and transphobic insults and bullying in corridors and classrooms and at social times were mentioned as issues in several Schools. Some LGBT+ children and young people reported constant verbal abuse and occasional physical assault, which left them feeling physically unsafe.
Sexual abuse between peers online
Previous research indicated that children and young people who are sending nudes and semi-nudes are in the minority. For example, research in 2017 indicated that 26% of young people had sent a nude image to someone they were interested in and 48% had received one off someone else. However, more recent data on youth-produced sexual imagery for under-18s indicates that they are increasingly taking photos and videos of themselves to send to others. This includes incidents where they are groomed by adults to do so.
Data from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) shows a sharp increase in online sexual abuse images involving young people, which it partially attributes to a rise in the sharing of ‘self-generated’ content. In the first 6 months of 2020, 44% of all child sexual abuse content dealt with by the IWF was assessed as containing self-generated images or videos, compared with 29% in 2019. The proliferation of online imagery makes it a challenge for researchers, multi-agency partners and Schools to keep up, despite recent government guidance.
Children and young people explained that online forms of sexual abuse were prevalent, especially being sent sexual pictures or videos that they did not want to see. The vast majority of girls said being sent sexual images, being coerced into sharing images, or having their images reshared were common. A significant proportion of boys agreed. In terms of definitions, being sent sexual pictures of images that children and young people do not want to see includes both explicit online material, such as pornographic videos, or self-generated images or videos, such as ‘dick pics’.
Images and videos were typically shared on platforms such as WhatsApp or Snapchat.
Although some School leaders defined online sexual harassment as ‘happening out of School’, Ofsted saw some clear evidence of how online sexual harassment has a significant impact on the normalisation of harmful sexual behaviour and unhealthy cultures within School. This was something that the victims’ groups they spoke to also highlighted. In one School, for example, children and young people told inspectors that ‘boys talk about whose “nudes” they have and share them among themselves – it’s like a collection game’. Many children and young people told inspectors that this behaviour was so commonplace that they just saw it as a ‘part of life’. One Year 12 student said, ‘The problem is that it’s so widespread it’s like playing whack-a-mole.’
Girls talked about boys being very persistent when asking for images – ‘they just won’t take no for an answer’ – some explained that if you block them on social media ‘they just create multiple accounts to harass you’. In one School, the girls spoken to by inspectors reported that some girls can be contacted by up to 10 or 11 different boys a night to be asked for nude/semi-nude images. Some children and young people thought that it was ‘ok’ and ‘acceptable’ to ask someone for a nude picture, but had been taught to think about who else might see the pictures apart from the original recipient, and not to share them further.
Some girls expressed frustration that there was not explicit teaching of what was acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. They felt that the need to educate peers had been left to them. One girl said: ‘It shouldn’t be our responsibility to educate boys.’ A minority of boys felt that gender stereotyping meant that they were being made to ‘feel guilty all the time’ and that they were being unfairly blamed for things they had not done. Nearly half of boys also said that being sent sexual images or videos they did not want to see was something that happened ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes’ to them or their peers.
Research in this area indicates that, while most secondary School pupils recognise the harm that sexual approaches from adult strangers online bring, there is less clarity about what constitutes sexual harm within the context of peer relationships or existing online networks. This shows the need for a whole-School approach that tackles sexual harassment and online sexual abuse proactively. This should include a well-sequenced RSHE curriculum, which incorporates time for open discussion of areas that children and young people tell us they are finding particularly difficult.
There is some evidence that suggests access to technology and the sharing of inappropriate images and videos are also issues in primary Schools.
Leaders spoken to also highlighted the problems that easy access to pornography had created and how pornography had set unhealthy expectations of sexual relationships and shaped children and young people’s perceptions of women and girls. Evidence suggests that nearly half (48%) of 11- to 16-year-olds in the UK have viewed pornography. Of these, boys were approximately twice as likely as girls to have actively searched for it. However, 60% of 11- to 13-year-olds who had seen pornography said their viewing of pornography was mostly unintentional.
A recent survey of over 1,000 undergraduates found that one third said they have ‘learned more about sex from pornography than from formal education’. While research indicates that most children and young people recognise that pornography is unrealistic, a high percentage of them reported that they had used pornography as a source of information to learn about sex and sexual relationships in the past 12 months (60% of young men and 41% of young women). This is problematic when research indicates that much pornography depicts men as aggressive and controlling and women as submissive and sexually objectified.
Although there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that viewing pornography leads directly to harmful sexual behaviours, there is evidence to suggest that young people appear to become desensitised to its content over time and that it can shape unhealthy attitudes, such as acceptance of sexual aggression towards women. More frequent consumption of pornography is also associated with victim-blaming attitudes. For example, it may lead to the belief that if a woman is affected by alcohol or drugs, she is at least partly responsible for whatever happens to her.
When children and young people talked to Ofsted about online sexual abuse, they did not use the terms that government guidance did. It can be difficult to address issues when the definitions are not up to date or are grouped unhelpfully. For example, ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ uses the phrase ‘sexting’ for online sexual abuse. None of the children and young people who were spoken to used this phrase and it appears to be out of date. In any future updates of government guidance, the full range of children and young people’s experiences should be reflected in the language used. Clearer categories of the types of sexual harassment and online sexual abuse would also be helpful for professionals.
Sexual abuse outside School
Children and young people in several Schools reported that harmful sexual behaviour happens at house parties, without adults present, and that alcohol and drugs are often involved. In one School, leaders talked about parties that have happened when parents have left children and young people unsupervised and they ‘are allowed to see, do and hear what they want’. In another, governors talked about a culture of ‘affluent neglect’ and leaders said that some parents bought alcohol for their children to have at parties when they were away. It is important to note, however, that incidents of harmful sexual behaviour or unhealthy cultures were certainly not confined to ‘affluent’ children or young people.
An analysis of key words in the 2,030 publicly available testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited website found that a third (670) mentioned drugs or alcohol. Of these, words equating to ‘drunk’, ‘party’, alcohol or names of different types of alcohol and ‘drinking’ featured in the most testimonies. These findings should be treated with caution as they are not representative. They do, however, give an insight into the experiences of some children and young people.
Some children, young people and leaders also identified parks as places where sexual harassment and violence took place.
In a minority of Schools, children, young people and leaders talked specifically about cultural factors that contributed to boys’ harmful sexual behaviour. One Year 12 boy talking about other boys told inspectors: ‘Essentially, they only spend time with boys, then hit puberty and start going to parties with booze and drugs and girls, and they don’t know how to handle it. And some of the boys are very wealthy and have never been told “no” before.’ In another School, girls similarly told inspectors that some of the boys had a sense of entitlement and had never ‘been told no’. They talked about a sense of ‘male superiority’ in the School. In another School, children and young people said that harmful sexual behaviours occurred outside School at parties but that victims did not want to disclose it because of the ‘power and money culture’ within which they live. As one girl put it, ‘victims do not want to commit social or career suicide’. These findings point to the power dynamics that are often present where there are sexual harassment and sexual violence, including online. These dynamics and social hierarchies are present across all School types.
Not many children and young people spoke about sexual abuse in relationships, although in one School they mentioned that incidents sometimes occurred between peers in established relationships, where ‘things go too far’ or ‘go over the line’. Some children and young people also talked about wanting to know more about issues around consent in established relationships. Textual analysis of the publicly available testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited website indicates that, where a relationship to the perpetrator is named, around two thirds of the testimonies say that the perpetrator was known to them and around a fifth was a boyfriend. Evidence suggests that early experience of dating and relationship violence is associated with subsequent adverse outcomes, such as suicidal behaviours, other mental health problems and low educational attainment.
Girls talked about feeling uncomfortable because of behaviour from peers on bus journeys (including School buses), where they said they experienced the kind of sexual harassment and bullying behaviour that happened in School. Girls in one School, for example, said that boys often made ‘rape jokes’ on the School bus. More widely, some children and young people said they did not feel safe from strangers on trains or in parks, alleys, car parks and side streets. Some girls in particular said that feeling unsafe in these situations was pervasive. One girl said that a man had deliberately brushed her younger sister’s leg recently and another girl had told her sister to get used to it as ‘this is what happens’. Younger girls aged 12 to 13 in another School said that they felt uncomfortable walking through town in their uniforms. Evidence from other research also indicates that this is an issue. A recent survey of girls and young women aged 13 to 21 found that more than half have felt unsafe walking home alone and had experienced harassment or know someone who has, and nearly half feel unsafe using public transport.
At Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service we adopt a whole School approach and make it clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment is not acceptable and will never be tolerated and is not an inevitable part of growing up.
Dismissing or tolerating such behaviours risks normalising them; and understanding that all of the above can be driven by wider societal factors beyond the Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service, such as everyday sexist stereotypes and everyday sexist language. This is why through our PSHE, RSHE, Enterprise and Employability, SEAL and Pathway to Adulthood Curriculums we take a preventative whole School approach, which is important to challenge.
All of our students at Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service have an EHCP and we recognise that children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are three times more likely to be abused than their peers. We recognise that additional barriers can exist and work closely within School with our DSL’s and SENDO. We do not make assumptions that a young person’s SEND impacts any disclosure and explore without prejudice and with an understanding of the individual’s needs. (See SEN Policy, Anti-Bullying Policy and Safeguarding Policy).
Children and young people who are lesbian, gay, bi, or trans (LGBT) can be targeted by their peers. In some cases, a child who is perceived by their peers to be LGBT (whether they are or not) can be just as vulnerable as children who identify as LGBT.
We are aware that staff can also be victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service have arrangements in place to protect our staff from such abuse, including clear reporting and support mechanisms.
It is important that everyone at Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service are aware of sexual violence and the fact Children/young people can, and sometimes do, abuse their peers in this way. When referring to sexual violence in this Policy, we do so in the context of child on child sexual violence. For the purpose of this Policy, when referring to sexual violence we are referring to sexual offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 as described below:
Consent is about having the freedom and capacity to choose. Consent to sexual activity may be given to one sort of sexual activity but not another, e.g.to vaginal but not anal sex or penetration with conditions, such as wearing a condom. Consent can be withdrawn at any time during sexual activity and each time activity occurs. Someone consents to vaginal, anal or oral penetration only if s/he agrees by choice to that penetration and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
It is important for all School staff (and especially Designated Safeguarding Leads and their deputies) understand consent. This is especially important if a child/ young person is reporting they have been raped.
At Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service we teach about consent in our PSHE and RSHE Curriculum. There is further advice from the PSHE association and lesson plans to teach consent at Key stage 3 and 4.
CPS Guidance explains why under 13s are given additional protections in law due to their age and vulnerability. It is important to differentiate between consensual sexual activity between children of a similar age and that which involves any power imbalance, coercion or exploitation. Due to their additional training, the Designated Safeguarding Lead (or deputy’s) lead Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service’s response following Safeguarding Policy.
Sexual harassment means: ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’ that can occur online and offline. When we reference sexual harassment, we do so in the context of child on child sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is likely to: violate a child’s dignity, and/or make them feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated and/or create a hostile, offensive or sexualised environment.
Sexual harassment can include:
It may include:
It is important that we at Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service consider sexual harassment in broad terms. Sexual harassment (as set out above) creates an atmosphere that, if not challenged, can normalise inappropriate behaviours and provide an environment that may lead to sexual violence.
Harmful sexual behaviour
Children/ Young People’s sexual behaviour exists on a wide continuum, from normal and developmentally expected to inappropriate, problematic, abusive and violent. Problematic, abusive and violent sexual behaviour is developmentally inappropriate and may cause developmental damage. A useful umbrella term is “harmful sexual behaviour”. The term has been widely adopted in child protection and is used in this advice. Harmful sexual behaviour can occur online and/or offline and can also occur simultaneously between the two. Harmful sexual behaviour should be considered in a child protection context.
When considering harmful sexual behaviour, ages and the stages of development of the children are critical factors to consider. Sexual behaviour between children can be considered harmful if one of the children is much older, particularly if there is more than two years’ difference or if one of the children is pre-pubescent and the other is not.
However, a younger child can abuse an older child, particularly if they have power over them, for example, if the older child is disabled or smaller in stature. See NSPCC: Harmful sexual behaviour for more information on what is harmful sexual behaviour.
Detailed advice on harmful sexual behaviour is available from the specialist sexual violence sector: contact Rape Crisis or the Survivors Trust for details of the nearest centre. NICE guidance for advice on, amongst other things: developing interventions; working with families and carers; and multi-agency working. The University of Bedfordshire has developed a range of resources to support Schools and Colleges to address harmful sexual behaviour, see: HSB Resources. The Brook sexual behaviours traffic light tool can help when considering harmful sexual behaviour.
Our Designated Safeguarding Leads (and their deputies) have a good understanding of harmful sexual behaviour. This is part of their safeguarding training at Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service. This assists in planning preventative education which is designed by the Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator and Headteacher who are both also DSL’s, implementing preventative measures, drafting and implementing an effective child protection policy and incorporating the approach to sexual violence and sexual harassment into the whole School or College approach to safeguarding.
Harmful sexual behaviour can, in some cases, progress on a continuum. Addressing inappropriate behaviour can be an important intervention that helps prevent problematic, abusive and/or violent behaviour in the future. Children displaying harmful sexual behaviour have often experienced their own abuse and trauma.
It is important that they are offered appropriate support. We have the use of trained therapists in this area available.
Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service has a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of our young people. As part of this duty, we are required to have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State and must have regard to Keeping Children Safe in Education and Working Together to Safeguard Children.
We are required by law to have a Behaviour policy and measures in place to prevent all forms of bullying through our Anti-Bullying Policy.
We teach sex and relationship health education (SRHE) and follow the SRE Statutory Guidance.
At Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service we are aware of our obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). It is unlawful for Schools and Colleges to act in a way that is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. These rights include:
Being subjected to sexual violence or sexual harassment may breach any or all of these rights, depending on the nature of the conduct and the circumstances.
According to the Equality Act, Schools and Colleges must not unlawfully discriminate against pupils because of their sex, race, disability, religion or belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy or sexual orientation (protected characteristics). Whilst all of the above protections are important, in the context of this advice Schools and Colleges should carefully consider how they are supporting their pupils with regard to their sex, sexuality and if appropriate gender reassignment.
Provisions within the Equality Act allow Schools and Colleges to take positive action, where it can be shown that it is proportionate, to deal with particular disadvantages affecting one group. A School or College, could, for example, consider taking positive action to support girls if there was evidence they were being disproportionately subjected to sexual violence or sexual harassment.
At Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service we consider the makeup of our own student body, including the gender and age range of our students, and whether additional support for young people with protected characteristics (who are potentially at greater risk) is appropriate. For example, this policy reflects the gendered nature abuse can take. The evidence shows that girls are more likely to be subject to sexual violence and sexual harassment than boys, and that boys are more likely to perpetrate such violence and harassment. On this basis we talk openly about and encourage healthy and respectful relationships between boys and girls including through Relationship and Sex Education, Personal Social Health and Economic and Enterprise and Employability education. We challenge stereotypes and encourage young people to become enquiring learners and take a whole School approach. We embrace diversity and inclusion and invite everyone to discuss and challenge. We are a Silver Stonewall School.
We ensure that our response to sexual violence and sexual harassment between children of the same sex is equally robust as it is for sexual violence and sexual harassment between children of the opposite sex.
A whole School approach to preventing child on child sexual violence and sexual harassment
At Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service, we take a whole School approach to safeguarding and child protection. This means involving everyone in the School including proprietors, all the staff, children, adult students and parents and carers.
Safeguarding and child protection is a recurrent theme running through policies and procedures, curriculum and everyday life at Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service. Our approach to sexual violence and sexual harassment is part of the broader approach to safeguarding.
Our safeguarding procedures with regard to sexual violence and sexual harassment are transparent, clear and easy to understand for staff, pupils, students, parents and carers. This Policy is available on the School website and annual updated versions sent to Parents/Carers and staff. We have 5 DSL’s across the School.
We recognise that Safeguarding incidents and/or behaviours can be associated with factors outside the Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Centre and/or can occur between children outside of the School or College. All staff, but especially the Designated Safeguarding Leads (or deputies) consider the context within which such incidents and/or behaviours occur. This is known as contextual safeguarding, which simply means assessments of children should consider whether wider environmental factors are present in a child’s life that are a threat to their safety and/or welfare. Children’s Social Care assessments should consider such factors so it is important that Schools and Colleges provide as much information as possible as part of the referral process. This will allow any assessment to consider all the available evidence and the full context of any abuse. Additional information regarding contextual safeguarding is available in our Safeguarding Policy.
All staff receive Safeguarding training on induction and then are trained annually at Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service. In addition to this training specific training is given in sexual abuse/ sexual harassment. Staff are aware of Part One of Keeping Children Safe in Education, as part of their child protection and safeguarding training, and are aware of the different types of abuse and neglect. Staff know what to do if they have a concern about a child, how to respond to a report of abuse, how to offer support to children and where to go to if they need support. Each Bubble has DSL staff and we use CPoms to record safeguarding concerns.
The role of education in prevention
At Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service, we understand the important role in preventative education. Keeping Children Safe in Education sets out that all Schools and Colleges should ensure children are taught about safeguarding, including how to stay safe online. We have this as a planned curriculum as part of a whole School approach through PSHE, RSHE, E and E, SEAL and Pathway to Adulthood Programmes. This provides a challenging broad and balanced curriculum, where we help our students to prepare for life in modern Britain/ The World. We are realistic in our response and promote discussion and debate with a mutually respectful approach. We have clear values and high expectations of our students mirrored in our Behaviour Policy and our SEAL and wellbeing programmes. We have a supportive network expected of all in the School. Our programmes are age and stage development appropriate and tackle such issues as :
At times, given an open forum to discuss, young people will disclose and this will lead to Safeguarding. Students are made aware of procedures for reporting concerns and staff are trained to support in this instance.
Specialist support and interventions
Whilst staff at Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service are trained, as part of our approach to sexual violence and sexual harassment, we consider carefully if external input is necessary. This might be to train and/or support our staff, teach our young people and/or provide support to our young people.
Specialist organisations can offer a different perspective and expert knowledge. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service will only used accredited organisations in the area.
Support for Schools and Colleges
Reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment are likely to be complex, requiring difficult professional decisions to be made, often quickly and under pressure. Pre-planning, effective training and effective policies provide Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service with the foundation for a calm, considered and appropriate response to any report. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis by the Designated Safeguarding Leads (or a deputies) taking a leading role, using their professional judgement and being supported by other agencies, such as Children’s Social Care and the Police as required.
We are not alone in dealing with sexual violence and sexual harassment.
Online concerns can be especially complicated. Support is available at:
In order to be prepared in the development of this Policy, the Headteacher will find out what local support can be accessed when sexual violence or sexual harassment has occurred. It is important to prepare for this in advance and review this information on a regular basis to ensure it is up to date.
Responding to the CPoms report
Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service initial response to a report from a child is important. It is essential that all victims are reassured that they are being taken seriously and that they will be supported and kept safe. A victim should never be given the impression that they are creating a problem by reporting sexual violence or sexual harassment. Nor should a victim ever be made to feel ashamed for making a report.
In some cases, the victim may not make a direct report. For example, a friend may make a report or a member of School or College staff may overhear a conversation that suggests a child has been harmed. As with all safeguarding concerns, it is important that in such instances staff take appropriate action in accordance with our child protection policy. They should not assume that someone else is responding to any incident or concern. If in any doubt, they should speak to the Designated Safeguarding Leads (or a deputies). In such cases, the basic safeguarding principles remain the same, but it is important for Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service to understand why the victim has chosen not to make a report themselves. This discussion should be handled sensitively and with the support of Children’s Social Care if required.
There may be reports where the alleged sexual violence or sexual harassment involves pupils or students from the same School, but is alleged to have taken place away from the School or College premises, or online. There may also be reports where the children concerned attends two or more different Schools or Colleges. The safeguarding principles, and individual Schools’ and Colleges’ duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of their pupils and students, remain the same. In such circumstances, appropriate information sharing and effective multi-agency working will be especially important.
As per Part One of Keeping Children Safe in Education, all staff should be trained to manage a report. This includes:
Staff taking a report should never promise confidentiality as it is very likely that it will be in the best interests of the victim to seek advice and guidance from others in order to provide support and engage appropriate agencies. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should only engage staff and agencies who are required to support the children involved and/or be involved in any investigation.
The victim may ask the School not to tell anyone about the sexual violence or sexual harassment. There are no easy or definitive answers when a victim makes this request. If the victim does not give consent to share information, staff may still lawfully share it, if it can be justified to be in the public interest, for example, to protect children from harm and to promote the welfare of children. The Designated Safeguarding Leads (or a deputies) should consider the following:
Ultimately, the Designated Safeguarding Lead (or a deputy) will have to balance the victim’s wishes against their duty to protect the victim and other children.
If the Designated Safeguarding Leads (or a deputies) do decide to go ahead and make a referral to Children’s Social Care and/or a report to the Police against the victim’s wishes, this should be handled extremely carefully, the reasons should be explained to the victim and appropriate specialist support should be offered.
Additional information on confidentiality and information sharing is available at Safeguarding Practitioners Information Sharing Advice and NSPCC: Information sharing and confidentiality for practitioners.
Where an allegation of sexual violence or sexual harassment is progressing through the criminal justice system, Schools and Colleges should be aware of anonymity, witness support and the criminal process in general so they can offer support and act appropriately. Information is at: CPS: Safeguarding Children as Victims and Witnesses.
As a matter of effective safeguarding practice, Schools and Colleges should do all they reasonably can to protect the anonymity of any children involved in any report of sexual violence or sexual harassment. Amongst other things, this will mean carefully considering, based on the nature of the report, which staff should know about the report and any support that will be put in place for the children involved.
Schools and Colleges should also consider the potential impact of social media in facilitating the spreading of rumours and exposing victims’ identities.
When there has been a report of sexual violence, the Designated Safeguarding Leads (or a deputies) should make an immediate risk and needs assessment. Where there has been a report of sexual harassment, the need for a risk assessment should be considered on a case-by-case basis. The risk and needs assessment should consider:
It is not the role of Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service to provide legal advice or support to victims, alleged perpetrators or parents in respect of a criminal justice process. We should be aware of own position and responsibilities, especially any actions that are appropriate to protect us.
Risk assessments should be recorded (written or electronic) and should be kept under review. At all times, Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should be actively considering the risks posed to all our students and putting adequate measures in place to protect them and keep them safe.
The Designated Safeguarding Leads (or a deputies) should ensure they are engaging with Children’s Social Care and specialist services as required. Where there has been a report of sexual violence, it is likely that professional risk assessments by social workers and or sexual violence specialists will be required. The risk assessment is not intended to replace the detailed assessments of expert professionals. Any such professional assessments should be used to inform Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service approach to supporting and protecting our students and updating our own risk assessment.
Action following a report of sexual violence and/or sexual harassment
Important considerations will include:
As always when concerned about the welfare of a child, all staff should act in the best interests of the child. In all cases, Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should follow general safeguarding principles as per Keeping Children Safe in Education. Immediate consideration should be given as to how best to support and protect the victim and the alleged perpetrator (and any other children involved/impacted).
The starting point regarding any report should always be that sexual violence and sexual harassment is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Especially important, is not to pass off any sexual violence or sexual harassment as ‘banter’, ‘part of growing up’ or ‘having a laugh’.
Children sharing a classroom: Initial considerations when the report is made, any report of sexual violence is likely to be traumatic for the victim. However, reports of rape and assault by penetration are likely to be especially difficult with regard to the victim and close proximity with the alleged perpetrator is likely to be especially distressing. Whilst Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service establishes the facts of the case and starts the process of liaising with Children’s Social Care and the Police, the alleged perpetrator should be removed from any classes they share with the victim. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service will also consider how best to keep the victim and alleged perpetrator a reasonable distance apart on the premises and on transport to and from the School, where appropriate. These actions are in the best interests of both young people and should not be perceived to be a judgment on the guilt of the alleged perpetrator.
For other reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment, the proximity of the victim and alleged perpetrator and considerations regarding shared classes, sharing School premises and School transport, should be considered immediately. The wishes of the victim, the nature of the allegations and the protection of all children in the School or College will be especially important when considering any immediate actions.
Options to manage the report
It is important that Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service considers every report on a case-by-case basis. When to inform the alleged perpetrator will be a decision that should be carefully considered. Where a report is going to be made to Children’s Social Care and/or the Police, then, as a general rule, Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should speak to the relevant agency and discuss next steps and how the alleged perpetrator will be informed of the allegations. However, as per general safeguarding principles, this does not and should not stop Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service taking immediate action to safeguard their children, where required.
There are four likely scenarios for Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service to consider when managing any reports of sexual violence and/or sexual harassment.
Referrals to Children’s Social Care
Reporting to the Police
Considering bail conditions
Managing any delays in the criminal process
The end of the criminal process
Safeguarding and supporting the victim
The following principles are based on effective safeguarding practice and should help shape any decisions regarding safeguarding and supporting the victim. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should think carefully about the terminology it uses to describe the “victim”.
Support can include:
Victims may not disclose the whole situation immediately. They may be more comfortable providing information on a piecemeal basis. It is essential that dialogue is kept open and encouraged. When it is clear that ongoing support will be required, Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should ask the victim if they would find it helpful to have a designated trusted adult (for example, their support mentor or Designated Safeguarding Lead) to talk to about their needs. The choice of any such adult should be the victim’s. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service will respect and support this choice.
A victim of sexual violence is likely to be traumatised and, in some cases, may struggle in a normal classroom environment. While Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should avoid any action that would have the effect of isolating the victim, in particular from supportive peer groups, there may be times when the victim finds it difficult to maintain a full-time timetable and may express a wish to withdraw from lessons and activities. This should be because the victim wants to, not because it makes it easier to manage the situation. If required, Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service will provide a physical space for victims to withdraw. This could be in the form of each Bubble’s Positive Outcome Zones (POZ)
It may be necessary for School to maintain arrangements to protect and support the victim for a long time. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Centre should be prepared for this and should work with Children’s Social Care and other agencies as required.
It is important that the Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service do everything we reasonably can to protect the victim from bullying and harassment as a result of any report they have made.
Whilst students should be given all the necessary support to remain in their School or if the trauma results in the victim being unable to do this, alternative provision or a move to another School or College should be considered to enable them to continue to receive suitable education. This should only be at the request of the victim (and following discussion with their parents or carers).
It is important that if the victim does move to another educational institution (for any reason), that the new educational institution is made aware of any ongoing support needs. The Designated Safeguarding Lead should take responsibility to ensure this happens (and should discuss with the victim and, where appropriate, their parents or carers as to the most suitable way of doing this) as well as transferring the child protection file.
Ongoing Considerations: Victim and alleged perpetrator sharing classes
Once the Designated Safeguarding Leads (or a deputy) has decided what the next steps will be in terms of progressing the report, they should consider again the question of the victim and alleged perpetrator sharing classes and sharing space at School. This will inevitably involve complex and difficult professional decisions, including considering their duty to safeguard children and their duty to educate them. It is important each report is considered on a case-by-case basis and risk assessments are updated as appropriate.
As always when concerned about the welfare of a child, the best interests of the child should come first. In all cases, Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should follow general safeguarding principles as per Keeping Children Safe in Education. Where there is a criminal investigation into a rape, assault by penetration or sexual assault, the alleged perpetrator should be removed from any classes they share with the victim. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service will also consider how best to keep the victim and alleged perpetrator a reasonable distance apart on School premises and on transport to and from School where appropriate. This is in the best interests of both children and should not be perceived to be a judgement on the guilt of the alleged perpetrator. Close liaison with the Police is essential.
Where a criminal investigation into a rape or assault by penetration leads to a conviction or caution, the Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Centre should take suitable action, if they have not already done so. In all but the most exceptional of circumstances, the rape or assault is likely to constitute a serious breach of discipline and lead to the view that allowing the perpetrator to remain in the same School would seriously harm the education or welfare of the victim (and potentially other pupils or students).
Where a criminal investigation into sexual assault leads to a conviction or caution, Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service, if it has not already, consider any suitable sanctions in light of our Behaviour policy, including consideration of Exclusion Policy, where the needs of the student may no longer be able to be met.
Where the perpetrator is going to remain at Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service, the principle would be to continue keeping the victim and perpetrator in separate classes and continue to consider the most appropriate way to manage potential contact on School premises and transport. The nature of the conviction or caution and wishes of the victim will be especially important in determining how to proceed in such cases.
In all cases, Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should record and be able to justify their decision-making. Reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment will, in some cases, not lead to a report to the Police (for a variety of reasons). In some cases, rape, assault by penetration, sexual assault or sexual harassment allegations are reported to the Police and the case is not progressed or they are reported to the Police and ultimately result in a not guilty verdict. None of this means the offence did not happen or that the victim lied. The process will have affected both victim and alleged perpetrator. Appropriate support should be provided to both individuals as required and consideration given to sharing classes and potential contact.
Safeguarding and supporting the alleged perpetrator
Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should think carefully about the terminology it uses to describe the “alleged perpetrator” or “perpetrator”.
Discipline and the alleged perpetrator
With regard to the alleged perpetrator, advice on behaviour and discipline in Schools is clear that teachers can discipline pupils whose conduct falls below the standard which could be reasonably expected of them.
Disciplinary action can be taken whilst other investigations by the Police and/or Children’s Social Care are ongoing. The fact that another body is investigating or has investigated an incident does not in itself prevent a School from coming to its own conclusion, on the balance of probabilities, about what happened, and imposing a penalty accordingly.
This is a matter for the School and should be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis. The Designated Safeguarding Leads (or a deputy) should take a leading role. The School should consider if, by taking any action, they would prejudice an investigation and/or any subsequent prosecution.
Careful liaison with the Police and/or Children’s Social Care should help the School make a determination. It will also be important to consider whether there are circumstances that make it unreasonable or irrational for the School to reach their own view about what happened while an independent investigation is considering the same facts.
Discipline and support
Taking disciplinary action and still providing appropriate support are not mutually exclusive actions. They can, and should, occur at the same time if necessary. On the one hand there is preventative or forward-looking action to safeguard the victim and/or the perpetrator, especially where there are concerns that the perpetrator themselves may have been a victim of abuse; and, on the other, there is disciplinary action to punish a perpetrator for their past conduct. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should be very clear as to which category any action they are taking falls or whether it is really both and should ensure that the action complies with the law relating to each relevant category.
Working with parents and carers
Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service will, in most instances, engage with both the victim’s and the alleged perpetrator’s parents or carers when there has been a report of sexual violence (this might not be necessary or proportional in the case of sexual harassment and should be considered on a case-by-case basis). The exception to this rule is if there is a reason to believe informing a parent or carer will put a child at additional risk. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should carefully consider what information they provide to the respective parents or carers about the other child involved and when they do so. In some cases, Children’s Social Care and/or the Police will have a very clear view and it will be important for the School or College to work with relevant agencies to ensure a consistent approach is taken to information sharing.
Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service should, if appropriate, meet the victim’s parents or carers with the victim present to discuss what arrangements are being put in place to safeguard the victim and understand their wishes in terms of support they may need and how the report will be progressed.
It is also good practice for the School to meet with the alleged perpetrator’s parents or carers to discuss any arrangements that are being put into place that impact the alleged perpetrator, such as, for example, moving them out of classes with the victim and what this means for their education. The reason behind any decisions should be explained. Support for the alleged perpetrator should be discussed.
The Designated Safeguarding Leads (or a deputy) would generally attend any such meetings. Consideration to the attendance of other agencies should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service Behaviour Policy, Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy and this policy will help explain how reports of sexual violence will be managed and how victims and perpetrators are likely to be supported. In some cases this should help manage what are inevitably very difficult conversations.
Parents and carers may well struggle to cope with a report that their child has been the victim of an assault or is alleged to have assaulted another child. Details of organisations that support parents will be signposted to Parents and Carers.
Safeguarding other children
Consideration should be given to supporting children (and adult students) who have witnessed sexual violence, especially rape and assault by penetration. Witnessing such an event is likely to be traumatic and support may be required.
Following any report of sexual violence or sexual harassment, it is likely that some children will take “sides”. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service will do all they can to ensure both the victim and alleged perpetrator, and any witnesses, are not being bullied or harassed.
Social media is very likely to play a central role in the fall out from any incident or alleged incident. There is the potential for contact between victim and alleged perpetrator and a very high likelihood that friends from either side could harass the victim or alleged perpetrator online and/or become victims of harassment themselves.
School transport is a potentially vulnerable place for a victim or alleged perpetrator following any incident or alleged incident. Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service, as part of its risk assessment, will consider any additional potential support needed to keep all of the children safe.
A whole School approach to safeguarding, a culture that makes clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment is always unacceptable, and a strong preventative education programme helps create an environment in which all children at Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service are supportive and respectful of their peers when reports of sexual violence or sexual harassment are made.
Roselyn House School/ The RHISE Service will keep their policies, processes and curriculum under constant review to protect all their children/ young people. Reports of sexual violence and/or harassment (especially where there is evidence of patterns of behaviour) may point to environmental and or systemic problems that could and should be addressed by updating relevant policies, processes or relevant parts of the curriculum.
Further information and support
Support for Victims
Support for parents
Reviewed: June 2021
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