I was going to write this when I was full of anger. Then I wasn’t, because what’s the point? Then I got angry again, because we are all tired of this. So now I will try to explain, bafflingly, to a Headteacher, why children go to parties.
I have a nostalgia attached to the place I grew up. As I drive in to Norfolk I feel a wave of relief. I know where I’m going, I know the lifestyle, I know the local will always be my local. There aren’t five different words for alleyway (I’m looking at you Yorkshire). I have family there and I feel protective over that place and it’s people.
15 years since leaving high school I remember the lessons and the things teacher’s said to me. I remember all that, because teachers are in a position of influence. Those memories tarnished after reading comments from the current Headteacher regarding a list of experiences published by sexual abuse victims. I’m not going to quote it, because I don’t want to, but here is a link; https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/education/everyones-invited-list-of-norfolk-schools-8072668
Some of you might agree with him initially. The child went back to the parties? The child put themselves back in that situation? Well yes, no shit the child put themselves back in that situation. They went to parties because they were growing up. A young person’s social needs are as important as their educational and health needs. Can you honestly tell me that your social interactions haven’t shaped you as a person? Children want to be included, they want to be accepted. Most adults want to be included and accepted. A child attending a party is not an issue. Someone choosing to attack another person is an issue. Which should be obvious.
But instead of jumping to that conclusion, we question why the girl was at the party in the first place. We arm our girls. We tell them not to wear short skirts, or to wear too much make up, or to say certain things because any one of those could be an invitation for unwanted attention. There isn’t a woman in my network who hasn’t, as a minimum, been shouted at or grabbed by some idiot. We have just accepted that being a woman is a responsibility. A responsibility to carry ourselves in a certain way, so other people don’t assault us.
I call bullshit.
My year-group went through at a lot at that school, but I never felt unsafe. The Headteacher at the time supported us when our friend died. Years after I left he attended my Mum’s funeral. I felt protected there. I wouldn’t have felt protected if I had read comments like that from it’s leader. The attacker has been justified, the victim’s shit added to. Whether it was intentional or not is irrelevant, as the initial reaction was to question the victim, and just like that the trust is gone. Parents will, rightly, be telling their children their Headteacher was wrong.
So at this point I’d offer some advice to that Headteacher. We all make mistakes. Granted, only a few of us save it for the press, but we all fuck up. Whatever follow up message you put out there, and to be clear you definitely should address this, ensure it doesn’t include apologies for appearances, interpretations or feelings relating to your words. Sure, I’d like to know what the school is doing to ensure a culture of respect, but what I really want to know is what you personally are doing to recognise this mistake and better yourself. This isn’t PR. This is rape culture.
15 years since leaving school I remember you, I remember your lessons and the interactions we had. I remember all that, because you were in a position of influence then as a teacher, and even more so now as a Headteacher. Use it for better than this shit.