What We Know (and Don’t Know) about Violence against Girls and Boys in School
9 March 2023
The education sector needs to know more and do more about violence in schools. Children are exposed to staggering levels of physical, psychological, and sexual violence, perpetrated by teachers, other adults, and students. Many existing efforts focus on girls because—when we consider violence in- and out-of-school—girls are more likely to be victims, including of the most extreme types of sexual violence. Girls are systematically disadvantaged as a result of their gender, and so it’s right that preventing violence against girls remains a priority. But the scarce data that exists suggests boys are also vulnerable to high levels of sexual abuse—as well as other types of violence—in schools. Paying more attention to violence against boys will also help protect women and girls, since victims of violence often go on to be perpetrators of violence. Here, we analyse the existing data, highlight some of the areas where we lack data, and suggest that more attention needs to be given to the different types of violence—including the different perpetrators—experienced by boys and girls. It’s very possible that children are suffering much higher levels of school violence than we know. We note that existing survey data may not capture levels of school violence accurately: some evidence suggests that levels of violence are significantly under-estimated, and we don’t know much about which children are most likely to under-report.