'It's all about education' - Freedom From Abuse founder talks safeguarding

marilyn hawes freedom from abuse

Marilyn Hawes, founder of Freedom From Abuse, has the discussed the importance of educating children, parents and teachers on all forms of abuse - Credit: Courtesy of Marilyn Hawes

In light of the ongoing conversation around misogyny in the UK, we spoke to Freedom from Abuse - an organisation which specialises in education and training to tackle abuse. 

Last month, BBC's Panorama explored the worsening rates of sexual assault carried out by those under 18 on other children - and how easy access to pornography is potentially fuelling this rise - in its report, Who's Protecting Our Kids

This came following the launch of website, Everyone's Invited, where more than 16,000 testimonials were published from both current and past school pupils who had been sexually assaulted or harassed.

Director and CEO of Freedom from Abuse Marilyn Hawes, from Stevenage, believes "it's all about education". 

"Schools should be investing in bringing in outside experts like ourselves," she said.

"It shouldn't all be on the teachers. Nobody is talking about healthy and unhealthy relationships. We've got to ensure children are able to make informed decisions. 

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"Bringing in someone who is experienced can make sex education more effective."

Marilyn holds workshops in schools for Year 3 to Year 11 children, exploring online safety, misogyny, misandry, consent and many other hard-hitting topics. She also speaks to parents and teachers about how to protect children from abuse.

"I go into prisons and talk to people who are in for online grooming, and they tell me children have lost all sense of what is a friend and what is a stranger online," she continued.

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"And gone are the days of getting hold of a magazine from the top shelf - online pornography is everywhere, and it causes problems with the developing brain.

"The brain is impacted by watching all this porn and it sinks into real life creating a hyper reality - which is a growing problem.

"Research done in the US concluded that 41 per cent of children who are aware of porn said it makes them less respectful to the opposite sex, and girls felt that they had to meet boys' expectations.

"It's becoming normalised and this is the problem - misogyny is a real growing problem."

Panorama's Freedom of Information request to police forces across England and Wales found that between April 2019 and March 2020 there were almost 15,000 reports of sexual offences where both the alleged perpetrator and victim were under 18.

To find out more about Freedom from Abuse, go to freedom-abuse.org.

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