Cathy Newman's story on sexual harassment in school makes powerful statement

In the era of #MeToo, Cathy Newman's story is a stark throwback to days when girls were sexually tormented in school but did not have the courage to speak up against it


                            Cathy Newman's story on sexual harassment in school makes powerful statement

Childhood trauma for most women is usually related to acts of secret sexual harassment they've faced from a male companion. Sadly, the male companions are often close associates or men dwelling in the close proximity of the woman's life. Cathy Newman's story is a stark throwback to days when girls were sexually tormented in school but did not have the courage to speak up against it.

Over the years, with several women bravely coming forward to talk about their experiences, which eventually gave rise to the #MeToo movement, Newman's story holds a significant place, especially since the journalist is presently supporting the #Back2School campaign.

During a conversation with Sunday Times, the Channel 4 news presenter said that during her tenure at the elite Charterhouse School, she had been the victim of several sexual misconducts. Elaborating on an incident when a pupil unzipped his flies to reveal his private parts to her, she said, "It was completely unexpected. I just shrieked in a fairly comical way, laughed at myself to get over the humiliation of it, but afterward, I felt really embarrassed." 

In the era of #MeToo, Newman finds a ground to speak up (Getty Images)
In the era of #MeToo, Newman finds a ground to speak up (Getty Images)

The School was never aware of the incident that took place when Newman was only 16. Newman, who was talking as part of the Back2School campaign launched on Monday by the Diana Award Charity, mentioned that she hadn't spoken about the incident in years.

Being the daughter of one of the teachers in the school and one of the scholarship holders, she was always an easy target. "There’s the royalty and the mega-rich [at the school]; I was a master’s daughter. Because I was a scholarship kid, I didn’t pay any fees, and that again was a point of difference, and kids go for that.”

Newman's statement was strong enough to compel Charterhouse School to go forward with a proper set of guidance for the students and faculties against any kind of sexual harassment cases within the school campus. "Having now been made aware of these particular allegations, we have reported them to the police and will assist them fully in any investigation. While the events are said to have happened some time ago, they are deeply shocking. Such behavior has no place in any school," Charterhouse mentioned in a statement.

"Charterhouse has a zero tolerance policy towards bullying or harassment of any kind and puts the welfare of all pupils above every other consideration. We will continue to assist the appropriate authorities with any inquiries but will not be making further statements at this time.”



 

It also stated that sending out sexually provocative images or videos via mobile phones is strictly prohibited under 18-years of age. Although the Women and Equalities Committee have described the guidance as "belated", they have still stated that it is a "critical step in the right direction".

In one of their reports from 2016, the committee stated regarding the urgency to act against sexual harassment, "The evidence we have gathered paints a concerning picture: the sexual harassment and abuse of girls being accepted as part of daily life; children of primary school age learning about sex and relationships through exposure to hard-core pornography; teachers accepting sexual harassment as being “just banter”; and parents struggling to know how they can best support their children."

Among the several celebrity personalities, which include Harnaam Kaur, Will Poulter, Carrie Grant, and Nigel Owens, who owned up to speak about being bullied back in school, Newman too shared her story for the Back2School campaign, where she said that being a girl in a school with a larger number of male students was difficult to get by. There were situations when they would spray water on her white shirt just to get a glimpse of her underwear through her wet garments. Newman regrets not reporting the incident at the time since there were several other things which happened. 



 

A report from 2017 states that almost 37 percent of girls in co-ed schools undergo sexual harassment and 24 percent have been subjected to unwanted physical attention. Almost 66 percent of female sixth-form students have complained about being slanged on through sexist comments in school. Among the several teachers who have witnessed such uncomfortable situations, there have been claims that they too have been victims to students harassing them. 

“In class, boys talk about girls’ bodies and what they ‘would do to them’, make female sex noises at the teachers and at girls, ask girls in class if a particular photo was them, have they got it shaved, what it looks like. Girls have cried in class several times due to abuse of intimate photos.”Watch Cathy Newman speak about being harassed in school: