Peer on Peer Abuse

Peer on Peer Abuse

What should schools be doing?

Unfortunately, peer-on-peer abuse can and does happen in a whole range of settings that children attend. However, it often goes unseen. It might take place online, for example, or away from the school or setting. Therefore, training for professionals to help them recognise the signs, and know what to do, is essential.

For schools, there’s detailed Department for Education advice on what to do if a child is sexually harassed or experiences sexual violence. This expands on the principles set out in the statutory guidance ‘Keeping children safe in education’.

We expect all our staff to be familiar with this guidance and to apply it. Staff should understand child protection policies and use them: there’s no point to a policy that is not put into action. It should be clear that peer-on-peer abuse will never be accepted or dismissed as ‘children being children’.

We expect all staff to know what to do if they come across, or are worried about, peer-on-peer abuse. They should know who to speak to and what action to take to make sure children are safe.

How do we understand what peer-on-peer abuse is?

Peer-on-peer abuse is most likely to include, but may not be limited to:

  • Bullying (including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying)
  • Physical abuse such as hitting, kicking, shaking, biting, hair pulling or otherwise causing physical harm (this may include an online element, which facilitates, threatens and/or encourages physical abuse) 
  • Emotional abuse- on or off line
  • Abuse in intimate relationships between peers 
  • Sexual violence and sexual harassment
  • Causing someone to engage in sexual activity without consent 
  • Upskirting, which typically involves taking a picture under a person’s clothing without their permission, to obtain sexual gratification or cause the victim humiliation, distress or alarm  
  • Consensual and non-consensual sharing of nude and semi-nude images and/or videos (also known as sexting or youth produced sexual imagery)
  • Initiation/hazing type violence and rituals, which could include activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group, and may also include an online element

This is explained in paragraph 49 of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE).

What is Peer-on peer sexual abuse?

This can take many forms, such as: 

  • Abuse in intimate personal relationships between peers
  • Upskirting, which involves taking a picture under a person’s clothing without their permission to obtain sexual gratification or cause the victim humiliation, distress or alarm  
  • Sexting, which covers both consensual and non-consensual sharing of nude and semi-nude images and/or videos
  • Causing someone to engage in sexual activity without consent, such as forcing them to strip, touch themselves sexually or engage in sexual activity with a third party

What is sexual violence?

This means rape, assault by penetration, or sexual assault (intentional sexual touching).

 

What is sexual harassment?

This means unwanted conduct of a sexual nature – such as sexual comments, sexual jokes or taunting, physical behaviour like interfering with clothes, or online harassment such as sexting.

How do we provide appropriate training and regularly update staff?

All our staff need to maintain an attitude of ‘it could happen here’. They address inappropriate behaviour’s as soon as they happen, helping to prevent abusive/violent behaviour further down the line. Victims will be listened to and reports will be taken seriously.

It’s vital our staff know and can identify peer-on-peer abuse early to prevent it from escalating. We provide staff with regularly updated and appropriate safeguarding training that enables them to understand:

  • Their role in preventing peer-on-peer abuse 
  • How to identify the indicators of abuse
  • What to do if they have a concern about a child
  • How to respond to a report of abuse
  • How to offer support to the victim(s) and alleged perpetrator(s) 
  • Where to go if they need support
  • That children can abuse other children inside and outside of school, as well as online, and that online abuse can take the form of:
    • Abusive, harassing and misogynistic messages
    • Non-consensual sharing of indecent nude and semi-nude images and/or videos, especially around chat groups 
    • Sharing of abusive images and pornography to those who don’t want to receive such content  
  • That they need to maintain an attitude of ‘it could happen here’ 
  • That even if there are no reports in your school, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening
  • The importance of challenging inappropriate and abusive behaviour (see more on this below)
  • That girls are more likely to be victims and boys are more likely to be perpetrators 

How do we report abuse?

If we are dealing with an allegation of peer-on-peer abuse, we follow our Safeguarding school policy and report incidents internally using CPOMS

Some of our 3 safeguarding partners are:

  • Warrington Children’s Social Care
  • Warrington Early Help Team
  • Police Community Support Liaison Officer (PCSO)
  • Nurture Support

How does our curriculum make sure children are taught about safeguarding, including how to stay safe online?

Our PHSE/RSE curriculum tackles (in an age-appropriate and inclusive way) issues such as:

  • Healthy and respectful relationships
  • What respectful behaviour looks like
  • Consent
  • Gender roles, stereotyping and equality
  • Body confidence and self-esteem
  • Prejudiced behaviour
  • Sexual violence and sexual harassment
  • Cyber-bullying
  • Sexting
  • Peer pressure
  • Self-esteem

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has a range of safeguarding teaching resources including lesson plans on personal safety, healthy relationships and online bullying. Its 'Speak out Stay safe' programme also includes interactive assemblies and workshops on safeguarding for pupils in KS1 and KS2.

How can we support our pupils to feel confident to report abuse?

We have robust systems in place for pupils to confidently report abuse, sexual violence and sexual harassment. Worry boxes are available for children to express their concerns and child friendly posters are in prominent places to remind children who they can talk to. Our Rights Respecting School Council and Class Charters remind children of:

Article 12- The right to give your opinion and for adults to listen and take it seriously.

Article 16- The right to privacy

Our children know that we treat their concerns seriously and that they can safely express their views and give feedback. Our Safeguarding and Wellbeing Team have a highly visible and active presence within the school. They will make children aware of the processes of how any report can be reported and consequently handled, including when they have a concern about a friend or a peer.

Other organisations/ agencies we may work with?

Peer-on-peer abuse incidents and/or inappropriate behaviours can be associated with factors outside of the school. We consider the context when preventing and dealing with such incidents.

For example, when tackling violence it's important to we:

  • Understand the problems that young people are facing both in school and in their local community
  • Consider possible avenues of support
  • Work with local partners (who may have valuable information, resources or expertise).
  • Specialist organisations to support training staff, teaching children and/or providing them with support, such as NSPCC, the Brook traffic light tool and the ‘Stop it now!’ website. 

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