A RAPE crisis group is visiting Southend schools to work with children in a bid to tackle a culture of victim blaming and challenge attitudes towards sexual assault.

Southend Rape Crisis (SOSRC) is working with four secondary schools to raise awareness among young people around consent, being an active bystander, and the harms of pornography.

As part of the PSHE, curriculum, students in years 9 to 13 are encouraged to join the discussion about behaviours they may have witnessed or been a part of.

They are presented with various scenarios and challenged to decide whether the young characters have consented to the activities depicted. They also discuss social media and trending topics in youth culture.

Shana Thomas, independent sexual violence accredited adviser, said: “One of the scenarios we discuss is a girl going home drunk from a nightclub with a boy. She has a boyfriend, and the next day says she has been raped. Often, the view of young people is that she has cheated and therefore regretted it and that is why she is saying she was raped. We talk about what she was wearing, and the rape myths associated with that.

“We have a discussion around the fact drunk people can be raped, people with partners can be raped and people in marriages can be raped. We don’t want young people to have this idea that because someone has a partner, they must be feeling regretful and are therefore calling it rape out of guilt.

“Sometimes, we are shocked at what they say and are shocked that young people think like that. But even saying those things is part of the education.

“By engaging in that way, it is still prevention education as it is getting them to question why they think the way they do. It is not just about giving them skills and the right language, it is about raising awareness and giving them the space to have those conversations.

“It is getting the conversations to happen, so young people can understand their experiences.”

Southend Rape Crisis has recently received a £5,000 grant from Roger Hirst,  Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex to help them continue the work with young people in Southend.

Mr Hirst added: “Youth culture today means many of our young people are living their lives online, seeing a warped view of the world through social media.

“It is vital that work like this goes on, that the conversations  however embarrassing or awkward take place with our young people.”