Council Works with Young People to Shout out Sexual Harassment in Schools and Colleges

Cheshire East Council has worked with young people, schools and specialist services to develop and launch a campaign to tackle sexual harassment.

Cheshire East youth council members and Councillor James Barber with the SHOUT banner From left to right: Oliver Probert-Hill, Anna Morgan, Councillor James Barber, Jasmine Ward and Emily Saidi

The campaign called SHOUT – Sexual Harassment, together we can stamp it OUT – aims to set out what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, support teaching staff and help young people to know what to do if it happens to them or a friend.

The campaign is targeted at all secondary aged children and young people aged between 11 and 18 as well as parents, carers, schools, colleges and other frontline professionals who work with young people. The council’s SHOUT website features advice on how to spot the signs, who to tell, and where to go for help.

The campaign has also just won a British Youth Council Star award, which celebrates the breadth and diversity of youth voice work across England and Wales and recognises the young people, who champion projects to address local and national issues.

Working with the Cheshire East Youth Council, more than 2,600 young people across the borough responded to an online survey on the topic during September last year. The results showed:

  • 41 per cent of respondents knew a friend who had received an inappropriate image;
  • 44 per cent wanted schools to tackle the topic of sexual harassment in lessons or assembly;
  • 46 per cent were angry or wanted things to change/improve; and
  • 19 per cent of respondents did not feel safe either when on their own or with a group of friends.

Nationally, children and young people across the country told the national regulator, Ofsted, in a report last year, that sexual harassment occurs so frequently that it has become ‘commonplace’. For example, 92 per cent of girls, and 74 per cent of boys, said sexist name-calling happens a lot to them or their friends. The frequency of these harmful sexual behaviours means that some children and young people consider them normal.

Ofsted’s definition of harmful behaviours include:

  • Sexist name-calling;
  • Rumours about a person’s sex life;
  • Upskirting (taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing);
  • Sexting (sending sexually explicit photos via a mobile phone);
  • Being photographed or filmed without consent;
  • Unwanted touching; and
  • Sexual assault of any kind.
Councillor Kathryn Flavell, chair of Cheshire East Council’s children and families committee

Councillor Kathryn Flavell, lead member for children and families at Cheshire East Council, said: “Sadly, sexual harassment happens so often in the places where young people hang out, in person and online, that many think that it’s normal. But it’s not.

“From unwanted touching to sexist name-calling, there’s no excuse for this kind of behaviour, and it’s never the fault of the person who is being harassed.

“My message to anyone who has experienced sexual harassment is that you don’t have to suffer in silence – reach out to the people who can help you and together we can stamp it out.”

Councillor James Barber, young people champion at Cheshire East Council, said: “Everyone’s worked so hard on this campaign and I couldn’t be prouder of the young people who have shared their thoughts and experiences.

“I was absolutely blown away to find that SHOUT had won campaign of the year at the British Youth Council awards and that’s only been possible thanks to everyone involved, including our amazing young people. I know the campaign will be a huge success.”

Ruben Barrow, member of youth parliament for Cheshire East, said: “We wanted to tackle the growing problem of sexual harassment and violence in Cheshire East. We decided the best course of action would be to prevent the behaviour happening in the first place and educate people, especially boys, on what is and what is not acceptable.”

Jasmine Ward, member of youth parliament for Cheshire East, said: “As someone who has been harassed and also sees it happen on a daily basis – this reminds me how much the campaign needs to be promoted and how important it is to end the issue.”

Kirsty Williams, training and community manager at Cheshire and Merseyside Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre, said: “It takes great courage to stand up and speak out about any kind of sexual violence, it’s great to see the young people tackle this difficult subject by highlighting the need for education through this campaign.  

“If you have been affected by any kind of sexual harassment, no matter how long ago, we are here to support you. Together we can stamp it out.”

Help and advice is available for young people, parents and carers and professionals who work with young people at www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/SHOUT