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Everyone's Invited: 'More concern' for abusers than victims, says child protection campaigner
29 March 2021, 16:35 | Updated: 29 March 2021, 16:36
There is "more concern" for those accused of sexual abuse in schools than victims, a leading child protection campaigner has told LBC.
Jonathan West, who brought scandals at Ealing Abbey & St Benedict's School to public attention, claims that many schools have failed to clamp down on the attitudes that cause abuse and allow it to continue.
"It does seem that there's more concern for the welfare of the alleged perpetrator than there is for the victim," he said.
Mr West added that new laws are needed to make it easier for teachers to whistle blow on abuse in schools.
He said: "Everybody believes that they will instantly report abuse if they see it, until the moment when they're actually faced with the prospect of having to do it - then too often, they don't.
"That's just natural self-censorship and it's much, much worse in those schools where there's some hostility to the idea of washing your dirty linen in public.
"If you're in that kind of school, then you're a whistleblower and you might lose your job for it - that happens from time to time."
Currently there is no legal obligation on school staff to report abuse but Mr West said that 'mandatory reporting' would help stamp out many of the incidents.
"If we had a well-designed form of mandatory reporting - there's a good campaign called Mandate Now which describes how this really out to be done - then teacher would be protected when making reported.
"It would become a natural things to do and the abuse would get stopped much, much earlier."
He hit out at private school for only giving staff and students a "slap on the wrist" for unacceptable behaviour and said the way many independent school deal with incidents allows a culture of sexual abuse to continue.
"At the moment, the situation with independent schools is that if they're caught out not having reported it, they're slapped on the wrist, told to reform their safeguarding processes, they do and everything carries on and they gradually slip back into their old bad habits."
His comments follow a series of allegations of a "rape culture" at a number of independent schools with allegations published online.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for an inquiry into the allegations of sexual offences in schools that have come to light over recent days.
Thousands of testimonies have been made on the Everyone's Invited website - a site where people can anonymously share their experiences of misogyny, harassment, abuse and assault.
During a campaign visit to Milton Keynes on Monday, Sir Keir called for a cultural change in attitudes towards women and girls, adding that boys need to be taught about "respect".
He told reporters: "I'm really worried about what we are seeing over recent days, and I know many parents will be, many school teachers and staff and, of course, young people.
"There's got to be an inquiry and it has got to get going very fast; this is serious."
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "Schools and colleges work very hard to ensure that children and young people are able to learn in a safe environment and to prevent sexual violence and sexual harassment.
"In both the state and independent sectors, they follow guidance from the Department for Education, which was drawn up with input from school and college leaders, on how to manage and prevent incidents.
"This highlights the importance of making it clear that sexual violence and sexual harassment are not acceptable, will never be tolerated and are not an inevitable part of growing up."