zara mcdermott assault

Zara McDermott is calling for sex education reform after her own experience of assault

‘Schools need to put victims first’

TW: Mentions of sexual assault and suicide 

Love Island’s Zara McDermott is calling for urgent sex education reform in schools after speaking to students in her new BBC documentary Zara McDermott: Uncovering Rape Culture. The documentary, which is released today and investigates the proliferation of rape culture in schools, begins with Zara recalling her own experience of sexual assault.

Zara was 21 years old when she was walking through a park close to her home when a young man who appeared to be in school uniform assaulted her.

She recalls him following her and gradually getting closer to her before shouting at her: “I’m going to f*** you right now.” Zara goes onto say he pushed her against a fence and shoved his hand down her leggings. Her attacker stopped after a number of passersby came to her rescue. As the attacker ran away he continued to shout threats at her.

Zara told The Tab whilst the assault did not harm her physically or emotionally, it caused a sense of anger and injustice within her at how a schoolboy could think it was ok to threaten her.

via BBC

“I felt angry after because I thought, what made a young boy feel entitled to to try and touch me and attack me?

“It didn’t leave me with too many scars. I was very fortunate, instead it actually sparked me to think maybe I’ll share that story.”

This questioning drove Zara to create her newest documentary for BBC Three to uncover the ever growing rape culture in UK schools and to understand how and why young girls are more at risk than ever.

In the documentary she visits secondary school pupils to hear from them about their attitudes and concerns towards sex. When speaking to a group of female pupils she was met with stories of unsolicited dick pictures, nude requests, unrealistic body image expectations and violent language used by boys to describe to classmates their vision of sex.

via BBC

Throughout the documentary Zara touches on the porn industry and the impact social media has on young people and their understanding of sex.

To further understand the devastating impact social media can have, Zara spoke to Rachel, the mother of Semina Halliwell. Semina was 12 years old when she died by suicide following an alleged rape from a boy in her school.

After her 12th birthday Semina was always on her phone, like many teenagers, obsessed with social media platforms like TikTok and Snapchat. Semina’s friends shared with Zara how whenever they post pictures on Snapchat they are bombarded with messages from boys pressuring them for sex, calling them “frigid” when they refuse.

Rachel reveals the heartbreaking moment she recalls seeing the result of her daughter’s self harm as Semina told her she had been raped. Though she reported the rape to the police, the boy denied it and there was no DNA evidence to prove her case. Semina thought no one believed after her and shortly after this Semina died by suicide.

via BBC

Now Zara wants the government and schools to pay attention and take urgent action to reform sex education.

“The curriculum in PSHE lessons is so outdated. When I was at school, it was how to put a condom on a banana and stuff like that.

“Education around intimacy and relationships and what sex is and what sex means. Knowing how fake porn is is a really big one and there needs to be an appropriate way of educating our young people about it,” she told The Tab.

Zara also thinks the system of reporting within schools need to change in order for students and staff to feel supported.

She said: “There needs to be a safe space for young people to be able to come forward and report. It needs to be victim lead and victims need to feel like they’re in control of the outcome. I think a lot of young people are scared that when they report the consequences are going to be taken out of their hands and they might not be believed.

“I think it’s important teachers also feel supported in reporting the behaviour and know that there is going to be an outcome.

“No behaviour is too small to report, in my opinion.”

BBC Three’s Zara McDermott: Uncovering Rape Culture is available on BBC iPlayer now.

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