Young survivor on school support
“I was so lucky, I had support coming out of my ears! I just felt so supported - but it also felt unfair. I knew that similar things had happened to other people in other schools and they didn’t get that support.”
On Choice & Agency
“I was always given a choice at every stage. For example, I first told a teacher what had happened and she explained that it would have to be passed on to the school child protection officer, but she gave me the choice about whether I or she told the child protection officer. When I went to the child protection officer, she was really calm the whole time and that was really helpful. She only asked for the information that she needed to make the report and she checked in at each and every point to see if I was ok. The CP officer explained that my parents would need to be informed, but again I was given the choice about how I wanted that to happen and who would tell them. I understood that they had procedures that they had to follow and that meant informing different people, but I was always informed of who would know, what they would know and at what point they would know. It made it less uncomfortable that all these people knew something so personal about me when even my friends didn’t know. I was given a lot of control and a lot of choice. It didn’t feel like pity, it felt like genuine care. I was given a lot of reassurance and was reminded often that it wasn’t my fault, that I would be ok and that it was normal that I didn’t feel ok at that moment.”
On Supportive Teachers
“There were three members of staff who knew what had happened to me, but even the teachers that didn’t know specifically what had happened were really supportive. They had received information that I had some personal stuff going on, but not the specifics. Whenever I was collected from class to go to speak to someone like the CP officer, they didn’t make a big deal out of it, it was discreet, but not in a bad way. I was allowed to only go to classes if I felt ok to go and I was given the option to work on my own in the library, or in a space near the teachers who were aware of what had happened. That meant that I could easily access support if I needed it, I knew that they were around if I wanted to talk about it. The depute head found me support information for Rape Crisis Scotland and Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre. It was a case of “this information is here if you need it and we’re here if you need us.
“One of the most helpful things was that a teacher came with me to the sexual health clinic. I was given the choice about who would accompany me and I knew that even if I’d said no to a teacher coming with me, they’d have made sure I had a friend to come with me or something, so I didn’t have to go on my own. The teacher who came with me was really lovely. She acted normal at the clinic, not drawing attention to the fact that she was my teacher. We went for coffee before the appointment, which to me was really above and beyond. I really appreciated it because it had been such an intense week with all that had happened and all the reports to the school, so it was a chance to just pause for a minute before the sexual health appointment.”
Support with School Work
“My class teachers knew that it was ok for me to leave class if I wasn’t feeling good and they didn’t make a big deal about it or draw attention to it to the other pupils. I would just put my hand up and the teacher would say “oh you’ve got that meeting, you can go”. In my English class, we were studying a text that had a part about rape in it. I was given the choice about whether or not I wanted to be in the classroom when pupils were discussing sexual violence and I was given the option to do the work on my own. At every step of the way I was reassured that I don’t have to do “X” but that I can if I want to. The teachers were also very good at letting all pupils know in advance if we were going to talk about something difficult like sexual violence, so pupils affected could decide for themselves if they wanted to sit it out. They would say things like ‘we’re going to talk about something difficult next week, we’ll be talking about sexual violence’.
“I missed school for two months in the run up to prelims, but still managed to do well in the prelims. I couldn’t have done that without the support. The teachers went over and above to support me and go over the work that I’d missed. That was really helpful. They told me that it was normal that I might struggle with my school work after what had happened to me. I had never considered the word ‘trauma’ until my teacher said it and explained it. She reassured me that my recovery didn’t have to be a straight line, that it was ok to wobble. The support was really continuous, even from those who didn’t know exactly what had happened. Classroom teachers would ask how I was getting on with the work and how I was doing more generally. It didn’t just last for the first few weeks, or even months. One year on and they are still checking in.”
On Importance of Schools supporting Young Survivors
“It’s so important because not everyone gets that support at home or even from their friends. School is the place where you are every day for six hours per day, it feels like you’re there all the time, so it’s important that the people there know how to care for you. You’re in one of the darkest situations you could find yourself in, and at such a young age, so to have the school there to support you is really important. Having support from my school meant that even if I didn’t feel able to talk to my parents or friends about it, I still had someone there who I could talk to and who could help.”
On GBV Prevention & School Curriculum
“The thing is, sex education can be quite sporadic and quite hit and miss. The idea of consent is touched upon, but it’s not enough. It’s a bit like… “If you’re having sex you need consent. Consent is good. If you don’t have consent then it’s rape. That’s it”. To me it feels like education about contraception is prioritised much more than consent. The sex education you get often depends on what teacher you have too. I think education about consent should cut across all subjects because P.S.E isn’t seen as a formal subject so people don’t always pay attention. If you are reading a text for English that has themes of gender based violence for example, that could be a space to talk about consent, or if you’re learning about inequality in Modern Studies. In any class really, space should be made to talk about consent and gender based violence. I also think schools should be more proactive in displaying GBV support information. Often you only get given information about support if you have disclosed, but that means there are people who might need the support information but can’t get it because they haven’t told the school what’s happened. Posters and information could be put up around the school. GBV support information could be visible in the same way that Childline and NHS is visible.”