Teach girls some kicks

27th April 2007 at 01:00
Police recommend self-defence lessons after pupils admit to feeling fearful of being attacked

self-defence lessons should be offered to young girls who live in daily fear of being beaten up, according to police, following a survey of 12 and 13-year-olds in North Wales.

The results, published last week in the report Young People as Victims of Crime, show that girls worry more about becoming victims than boys.

Police claim that young girls' stress is largely unfounded, with pupils more likely to be threatened than attacked.

But just one month before the survey, North Wales police recorded 42 violent acts against pupils in the age group across six counties. A total of 205 young people who took part in the survey also reported being at the receiving end of a physical assault.

Learning a martial art, as well as attending assertiveness lessons, was said in the report to be one way of raising confidence among girls, making them less likely to become victims of threatening behaviour and bullying.

But the report also says that many pupils might not be reporting incidents.

Police called on schools to develop more strategies to encourage boys to speak out if they were beaten up or bullied, rather than keeping it quiet.

A North Wales police spokeswoman said very few incidents or crimes were reported in schools.

"Most are minor offences involving little or no injury or damage," she said. "The fear of crime among young people appears to be far greater than the likelihood of becoming a victim."

Almost 2,495 Year 9 pupils took part in the survey, undertaken last December by the Quality of Service Group of North Wales Police. It found that, although 62 per cent were worried about being attacked, only 8 per cent had actually experienced an assault.

In the month preceding the survey, 54 per cent of youngsters had been the victim of an offence. Being threatened or bullied were the main complaints.

Most - 88 per cent - felt they were safe at school, although only 40 per cent said they felt safe when alone at night.

One in five cases in which threats were made, and these were mostly in Conwy and Denbighshire, occurred in school. Denbighshire had the highest percentage of bullying in schools, at 27 per cent.

Schools were encouraged to listen more to complaints of bad behaviour and bullying and to take action, such as assertiveness lessons, to help victims fight back.

It was found that victims had not reported incidents to adults in 21 per cent of cases because they did not seem important enough. But the second biggest reason, in 13 per cent of cases, was the fear of making the situation worse.

The report found 205 young people had experienced physical attack, 524 had property stolen, 37 had been the victim of a racial offence and 68 had been pressured to take part in sexual activity.

In the month before the survey, police recorded 42 violent acts, 14 thefts, one racial crime and two sex offences against young people in the age group.

"This suggests that about 20 per cent of the violent crimes and 3 per cent each of thefts, racial offences and sexual offences that the young people experienced were reported to the police," said the report.

Former secondary school head John Grisdale, school liaison co-ordinator for North Wales police, said: "The report indicates a true reflection of the concerns that young teenagers experience in school.

"It reflects their greatest day-to-day worries, and we need to help them so that they do not feel so fearful."

The report Young People as Victims is available at: www.north-wales.police.uk

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