Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Glasgow schoolkids advised to dress modestly to avoid sexual predators

I have heard many irresponsible things in my time, but this letter to families at King's Park Secondary School in Glasgow is one of the worst failures I've seen in a long time. Its advice about school uniform contains the following advice:
"We believe that an appropriate school uniform (eg school trousers, knee-length school skirt etc) protects children from being targeted by sexual predators."
And what's worse, the BBC reports that it's not been written by some random ill-informed idiot at the school, but has the approval of Glasgow City Council.

Apparently the advice is in response to the conviction of a man earlier this year for grooming and abusing kids.

The letter to parents hints that they, or their kids, may in some way be responsible for any abuse or unwanted attention that comes their way because of what they choose to wear. That sort of victim blaming attitude is entirely wrong. The  people who carry out abuse are responsible. Not anyone else. Not ever.  To suggest such a thing in my view is so serious that it means that whoever did this and agreed it should lose their jobs. It's that simple.

I guess I was already thinking about these issues anyway yesterday after reading Jenny Kemp's Guest post on A Burdz Eye View in which she argued that the Slutwalk phenomenon does more harm than good. I agree with her that the chatter around these marches focuses on what women wear and how they behave more than on how we can stop rape and bring those men who commit that terrible crime to justice. I can see where the organisers are coming from but you won't find me slutwalking.

I really don't understand why Michael Sanguinetti, Toronto the police officer whose comments to students that they shouldn't dress like sluts to protect themselves from rape, still has a job. The wee slap on the wrist he's been given really isn't sufficient.

Sara Bedford and Jonathan Calder have both written very well about the King's Park issue. Sara suggests that there may be another, almost as  insidious, motivation behind the letter. I'm not sure about that, but it might be worth considering.


Anonymous said...

Bet Nadine Dorries thinks it is a good idea.
Honestly people still say this sort of stuff. About 2 years ago I went with my husband for a walk in our local bluebell woods, and somewhere [ probably taking photos] we got split up, so I made my way back to the car on my own, passing a flasher en route amongst the trees. I decided that I ought to report it to the local nick, so did so next morning, it is not open over the weekend. Initial WPC was very sympathetic, and passed me over to the local PC for a chat. What a waste of time, he told me I shouldn't be going on my own. This is a well used area of woodland much used by the local community for walks, dog walking, natural history study etc, there were a lot of people in the woods that evening, anyway. I was so cross, I'd not reported it for myself, but was thinking aobut young girls who might be around who might have been more upset [ and how did I kow that flashing was all he did?]
Deary me.

Anonymous said...

I am really conflicted here. I do not have children, but one day I hope I do, and I might have a girl, and that girl will grow up and want to go out etc.

What would I want to advise her? I would like her to grow up in a world where she can go where she likes, when she likes wearing what she likes. But I can bet you I will be advising her to go out in groups, stay to main roads, and dress in such a way as to draw as little attention to herself as possible.

To be fair if I have a boy that would all still stand.

There is a medium somewhere, so people can give gils and women advice on how to be safe, without apportioning blame. In a sub ideal world, we all have to accept compromises like that.

tris said...

Right, let’s say first off that the men (and sometimes women) who behave in a sexually predatory way are ALWAYS WRONG.

There are some sick people about. No amount of law making or pretending that it won’t happen because it shouldn’t happen will make that go away. And unless everyone young enough to be attractive (and some who are not; A 90+ woman was raped recently) are in police protection, it is always going to be with us.

So, perhaps it would be a good idea for people to recognise it.

If a car, driven, in town, at around 60 mph by a young man (which I saw recently), or a woman driving a massive 4 x 4 with a phone glued to her ear (again, which I saw recently) knocks down a school kid who is walking in the road, as they sometimes do, the person who is at fault is the driver, but no one would criticise the person who advised kids that it’s a good idea not to walk on the road, just in case. It probably won’t happen, but it might.

It’s sense. We do not live in a perfect world where boys drive sensible speeds without trying to show off to their mates or girlfriends. And there are women who check their hair or (and I’ve seen this too) apply makeup while driving (one hand on the wheel, one applying lippy!)

My mum would NEVER have allowed me to go out to school with the top of my bum showing over my hipster trousers. She knew that there were dirty men out there who liked little boys showing off their bums.

Likewise, if I had a little girl she would not go to school dressed as an imitation of a St Trinian’s girl, with her skirt round her backside, fishnet tights and a tie askew. For god’s sake it’s most middle aged men’s dream, as film makers in the 1960s realised.

We don’t live in a politically correct world even if we try to make it politically correct on the surface. People still hate poofs and paedos; men are still over sexed and under satisfied, and teenage girls and boys, doing their best to look like young adults provocatively showing bits of their bodies that have the potential to arouse, are causing a danger to themselves.

We SHOULD be able to walk down the middle of the road without fear, because everyone should drive carefully; we should be able to be out and about in the town centre on a Friday or Saturday night without fear of a drunk assaulting us for “looking at his burd”; we should be able to wear sandals to a business meeting, or call the Queen “Liz”, or go about dressed in sexually provocative clothes without fear of unwanted attention, but we can’t.

The real question is: would you let your teenage daughter go out looking like the St Trinian’s girls; would you let your tenable boy go out with his jeans stopping at the base of his bottom?

As I said, I wouldn’t.

Glasgow council, dislike their politics though I do, as doing their best to deal with a situation which in the best of all worlds wouldn’t exist, but which does.

I wonder what the alternative is.

tris said...

teenage boy*... apologies.

aiberdeen funded banana hoodie said...

I think it's just the natural conclusion to decades of liberalism.
We're now afraid of our own shadows and nanny is determined to look after every aspect of our life.
All men are assumed to be perverts. Family units with a mum and dad are discouraged via taxation rules and seen as unusual.
Diversity is encouraged and every perversion is promoted on the BBC and funded by us on threat of prison for non payment.
While we will go to prison for non payment of £146 tv tax our leaders fiddle thousands and when caught are roundly backed and supported by blogs such as Caron's. No wonder things will never change for the better. Keep us all scared and convinced we need nanny to see us through life allows govt to control us until we die.

Doug Daniel said...

There's definitely something in what tris is saying. Another example is that we should be able to live in our houses without fear of them being broken into, but we still advise people to lock their doors because the sad fact is burglaries happen.

There are bad people in this world. Sometimes you just have to do things you instinctively feel you shouldn't so you can mitigate against the risks of being a victim.

I'm not even sure why someone would want to let their child dress in short skirts anyway. Personally, I'd have thought schoolgirls dressing in short skirts are at more risk of becoming the school tart (or at least accused of doing so - and most likely by fellow female pupils) than being targeted by a paedophile. I wish this sort of announcement was more about stopping the early sexualisation of children, rather than stopping paedos.

Anonymous said...

The issue around the school uniform policy is one of sound judgement. There wll always be tension between what schools want and what pupils think is fashionable but you can't deal with that by conflating child protection and safety with school uniform policy. Headteachers in large secondary schools get paid a lot of money to exercise sound judgement and part of that means ensuring that communication with parents is not spreading unfounded messages of fear and anxiety.


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