An exploration of teachers' understandings of sexual violence practices in schools.
Sexual violence in schools is a pervasive problem that is not confined to South Africa. It is a global issue which has been going on for years and is escalating at an alarming rate (Burton & Leoschut, 2012; Human Rights Watch, 2001; Leach & Humphreys, 2007; Leach, 2013,). Previous studies on sexual violence have focused on girls as victims. There is less literature on sexual violence as it affects boys/men or that is perpetrated by girls/women to girls/women. There is also very little information on school-related sexual violence perpetrated by women/girls to boys/men or by boys/men to boys/men. This study approached sexual violence in schools from teachers’ perspectives. The study intended to explore teachers’ understandings of sexual violence practices as perpetrated by/to anyone within the school setting and the forces fuelling and shaping reporting or lack of reporting on the subject. It also explores how sexual violence affects teachers emotionally and professionally. This study was conducted in KwaZulu-Natal, one of the nine provinces in South Africa, using survey and a focus group discussion with teachers. It is a qualitative study, taking an interpretive stance using Freire’s concepts of ‘culture of silence’ and conscientization as its lens. Findings in this study demonstrate that teachers are aware of the high levels of sexual violence practices happening in schools. Sexual violence incidents in schools are not limited to incidents occurring between learners, but at times, educators fall victim to sexual violence or are accused of perpetrating sexual violence. Findings in the study confirmed that more girls/women than boys/men are victims of sexual violence practices in schools and most of the perpetrators are boys or males. A significant number of teacher-perpetrated incidents were reported. Fear and protection were found to be the key factors behind underreporting of incidents. School management teams were regularly blamed for not taking stringent measures and not enforcing policies or taking action against perpetrators to curb the problem.