Schools abuse helpline receives over 650 contacts as pupils urged to get in touch with concerns

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  • The Department for Education is encouraging teachers to spread the word about the Report Abuse in Education helpline as schools’ return
  • Sexual assault, sharing nude images and rape are among the concerns reported to the NSPCC

The Government is calling on teachers to remind pupils that the NSPCC’s Report Abuse in Education helpline is still available to them for support and free and confidential advice.

With children returning to school after the Summer Holidays the Department for Education will make the request in the monthly bulletin it sends to schools across the country. 

The prompt comes as the helpline, set-up as a place for young people to report peer-on-peer sexual abuse within schools, has revealed that it has received over 650 contacts in the five months since it launched.

The latest monthly data update from the NSPCC shows that 118 contacts were deemed serious enough to refer to an external agency such as police, local authorities and the NHS.

Where information about the caller was known, 121 contacts were from adult or child victims, of which 73 were female, 41 were male, two were transgender and five were unknown. Meanwhile 67 of the contacts were from parents with concerns about their child.

The helpline launched on April 1st after thousands of testimonies of sexual abuse and harassment mostly perpetrated by peers were posted on the Everyone’s Invited site.

The charity has responded to reports about sexual name calling, unwanted sexual touching, sexual assault and rape by other pupils as well as online abuse such as sharing nude images without consent.

Incidents relate to both recent and non-recent abuse with adults who were abused as children telling the helpline that they felt they could not report it at the time or they tried to but weren’t listened to. In other cases, adults witnessed incidents but didn’t act on it.

Some victims told the helpline they were accused of inviting unwanted attention while others were discouraged from taking action against the perpetrator out of fear it would ruin their education and life prospects.

Victims said they felt scared, powerless and guilty because of the abuse and some developed anxiety, depression or suffered with drug and alcohol issues.

One parent wanted advice after her 14-year-old daughter was touched inappropriately by a boy in her PE class:

“She said this boy tried running his hand up the inside of her thigh, up to her crotch area. During the same lesson, she witnessed the boy “grab” two other girls by their boobs. My daughter spoke with the other two girls and they decided to go to their head of year. The girls were asked to write a personal account of what happened before being sent back to their lessons.

“I’ve since been on the phone with the school’s pastoral support team and they seem to have a completely different version of events, basically making out like my daughter has got it all wrong. It’s as if they’re dismissing the whole thing. I’m not sure what to do about it now, so I’m hoping you can advise.

Sandra Robinson, NSPCC Helpline Manager, said: “We’ve heard about hundreds of incidents of pervasive peer-on-peer sexual abuse and sadly we know there are likely to be many more that have gone unreported.

“Contacts to the helpline paint a striking picture of the devastating and lasting consequences peer-on-peer sexual abuse can have on young people and how it can be exacerbated if safeguarding incidents aren’t handled correctly.

“For some pupils, returning to schools this week means facing their abusers again but they don’t have to do this alone. Our helpline is a safe space for children, teachers or parents to report recent or non-recent abuse and provide support to help them recover.”

Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families, said: “As children return to school this September, we want them to feel safe and protected.

“That’s why we’ve taken steps to remind all schools about the importance of our new mandatory RSHE curriculum, as well as the NSPCC’s dedicated helpline.

“We encourage all individuals who have been a victim of sexual abuse, whether recent or non-recent, to call the helpline so that they can receive the vital support they need.”

To get in contact with the Report Abuse in Education helpline call 0800 136 663, or email Opening hours: Monday to Friday 8am – 10pm or 9am – 6pm at the weekends.