How Important is the Age Gap in Relationships at School?

It is estimated that between 85% to 90% of people who are raped have already met or know their attacker. Not only is this a rather worryingly high statistic, it also suggests that ‘stranger danger’ is an outdated term which can create a sense of distancing and can also lead to rape cases not being reported. More than half of rapes that can occur to students from fellow classmates are not reported due to the inordinate number of polarized and faulty thinking. Alcohol may be a contributing factor in some cases, making it hard for students to prove it was not consensual sex, as well as the stigma surrounding the ease of proof.

What also must be considered when rape occurs in a student environment, is that it also carries the mark of shame and embarrassment; more than half of accused rapists in a college or school environment find the punishment not meeting the crime. Of course, sometimes the ruling body of the school or college can try to downplay the seriousness of alleged rape, due to fear of bad publicity, which is a sad and disappointing fact.

Grooming within schools has always been a noted issue, but it seems to always presume grooming is on the internet from an older adult posing as a friend, a stranger, or even a teacher doing the transgressing. Yet an inordinately high number of illicit student-student relationships do occur within the environment of college or high school. For example, a 6th form student (16-18) can have a relationship with a 13 year old and it is not seen as overly wrong – especially if the older student is male and the younger one is female.

We seem to encourage or even congratulate young girls on relationships with older people, with the myth that boys mature much slower compared to girls adding flame to this myth. It becomes something seen as acceptable as both individuals are in a learning environment and are still teenagers. Yet, isn’t this wrong? If an 18 year old male (or female) becomes involved with a 13 year old girl (or boy), it can mean that the younger student is inexperienced and not appropriately equipped to deal with the type of relationship the older student can want. Although it is technically illegal, most institutes turn a blind eye to this practice.

As younger students are unaware of the physicality of relationships, you can find that they often give into pressure from the older student of things of a sexual nature. It is not uncommon for young girls to commit sex acts on elder students in an attempt to impress and please the other, whilst also not really wanting to. It is hard to say no when they trust the other and believe it is a normal practice. This has become a dangerous swirl of temptation to the students in the last year of their college life, due to the ease they can make younger students obey them.

Often, it is seen as a common practice as well as an approved one, as how far can we protest to these sort of illicit relationships when they are both consensual? Yet quite often it can be taken way too far, in the sense that a ‘no’ is often ignored, or ridiculed. The fact that it can even be considered as being a healthy sort of relationship is sickening, due to the lack of mental maturity and onset of the normal physical changes needed for a girl or boy to pursue a physical relationship.

Often the body of the boy/girl is not fully developed – it is alike to a child’s. In which case, isn’t craving and/or having a physical relationship with someone with undeveloped genitalia etc seen as slightly worrying, suggesting they are attracted to the look of children? How then can an 18 year old leave school and go on to 19 and then 20, whilst still wanting the same sort of body that they had chosen in college?

It is a genuinely worrying idea that illicit student relationships are not forbidden or even taboo to others – as rape often occurs in these due to a difference in maturity etc. ‘No’ does not seem to be an acceptable term in such cases and as such most are never reported or thought of in he term of rape. The word ‘no’ is meant to define rape if the abused says it and yet is not listened to, so what are schools doing about it? Not only are they ignoring and so saying it is alright, they are also failing to educate others on this polarized and irrational way of thinking and so not creating a healthy environment for our children.

words by Hayley Freeston

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