Early sexualisation of kids blamed for rise in student attacks
Stefanie Balogh, The Australian, 3 July 2017
The sexualisation of children and their easy access to online pornography is helping drive a significant jump in student-on-student sexual and indecent assault allegations at school, a leading psychologist warns.
In NSW government schools alone, the number of alleged student-on-student attacks rose from 90 incidents in 2015 to 142 last year. In the first five months of this year, 87 allegations of sexual and indecent assault in primary and secondary schools involving students were made.
The figures, released under freedom of information laws, reveals the number of alleged incidents involving the very young is also increasing.
In 2015, there were two allegations of sexual assault involving NSW primary-school students on other students. This rose to 14 incidents last year, and seven allegations involving primary schoolers were made by May.
Incidents involving alleged indecent assaults were also up in primary schools, with 19 student-on-student allegations in 2015, 41 in 2016, and 35 by May.
Michael Carr-Gregg, who specialises in parenting, children and adolescents, blames two factors for the increase in allegations in NSW. “One, the sexualisation of kids, and that’s through the media, and two, through their seeing pornography. I don’t think there’s any question about it,’’ Dr Carr-Gregg said.
Two 12-year-old boys were charged last year over the alleged sexual assault of a six-year-old girl at a primary school on Sydney’s northern beaches. The boys have pleaded not guilty and the matter remains before the courts.
Dr Carr-Gregg said the sexualisation of children through social and mainstream media was all- pervasive.
“Anecdotally, I would say parents would not have a clue what their children are doing online, period, including their activities of watching pornography,’’ he said.
“We have to have a conversation with our children about this stuff. It’s not a matter of if they see it, it’s when. If a kid has a phone then they have access to this stuff, that’s the problem.
“You just have to watch the Netflix shows. There’s still a message that comes through, I think, objectifying women, basically giving a very clear message to my clients, especially my female clients, that their worth is based entirely on how they look, rather than their achievements.’’
The NSW Education Department acknowledges allegations are rising. “Schools are amongst the safest places in our community. From time to time, incidents do affect schools just as they affect communities and society as a whole,’’ a department spokesman said.
“While there has been an increase in reporting of alleged sexual assault and indecent assault incidents from 2015 to 2017, it should be noted that there is a correlating increase in reporting across all incident categories during this time period, due to awareness and education programs highlighting the importance of incident reporting in schools.’’
The spokesman said the department supported schools in working with parents and relevant authorities to investigate and support students affected by alleged incidents, and mandatory reporting procedures were in place.
NSW Primary Principals Association president Phil Seymour said principals were increasingly vigilant about reporting and following up allegations.
“Notification has always been there but it is certainly ramped up a bit more. We’re more aware of it,’’ Mr Seymour said.
“And it does get awkward, because in some ways it can be really young kids who are trying to find out about the world and what is going on and don’t see the inappropriateness.
“They may be exploring their bodies. Years ago, we might just have let that go and just spoken to their parents or carers but now we are more attuned to it. This could explain some of the increase.’’