School may be seen as one of the best years of our lives, but for a lot of teenage girls it’s a living nightmare — and nobody knows that better than Zara McDermott.
The Love Island star suffered a stroke at the age of 14 when a nude photo of her, which she initially sent to a boy under pressure, was circulated around her Essex school.
Now, in a new BBC Three documentary, Zara McDermott: Uncovering Rape Culture Before It, she explains how sexual abuse colored her entire school experience.
“Most of my school memories are of a boy groping me under a desk, on the school grounds, or in class,” she says.
“The revenge porn event was the most painful, but a lot of bad memories revolve around that physical abuse as well.
“I always thought I was unlucky with my school experience and boys in my year, but in reality, this is happening in every school.
“When I was making this film, I thought every girl was going through this or knew someone who was going through it.”
Even today, the reality star says boys as young as 11 send her messages online, asking to send her naked or saying: “I want to s**g you.”
“They’re just changing their luck, or being bullied by friends, but it’s concerning that these young boys think it’s okay to send those messages,” she says. “If they think it’s okay to send it to me, what are they sending their teammates?”
The documentary – which airs tonight on BBC1 and is available on iPlayer – examines the extent of sexual assault, assault and even rape among teenagers in the wake of the Everyone Invite movement, which has led to the deaths of victims over the past 17 months. More than 54,000 evidences have been collected from
It also looks at the startling prevalence of porn being viewed by boys as young as 11, and considers how it shapes adolescents’ views.
attacked at the age of 15
As previously revealed, 24-year-old Zara was the victim of an attempted rape by a “weird schoolgirl” of about 15.
Four years ago in broad daylight, she was followed by someone who pinned her against a wall and tried to pull on her leggings at her local park.
Zara was rescued by members of the public, but she says the experience left her stunned, stunned by how powerful the teenager was, and worried that her assailant—who was never caught—was that of the other girls. will hunt.
“I was lucky to come out clean and the emotional impact of my revenge porn experience was enormous,” she says.
“But it definitely made me change my behavior. I think carefully about my route and never walk down the street without checking who’s behind me, because even in broad daylight, that guy is with me.” Managed to follow me for half a mile before getting beaten up.
What sense of authority do young boys feel over a young woman’s body? And where did that behavior start?
“It made me feel like a victim and it makes you wonder what happens if a bigger and stronger man tries to do the same thing? That’s what you have.
“It also made me worried about young victims that this guy might be a stalker, because often these crimes are entrance crimes, and subsequent attacks would get worse.
“It got me thinking, what sense of authority do young boys feel over a young woman’s body? And where did that behavior begin?”
Nude pressure brings back revenge porn hell
For the documentary, Zara talks to schoolgirls who have faced abuse.
This includes Mary, who was left with serious injuries to her chest and internal injuries due to a sexual assault, and was forced to attend the same school at which she was convicted, even after being convicted. was the attacker.
A high school girl in north London tells Zara that she is constantly pressured to go nude and that one year a boy sends every girl his private photos.
The girls’ experiences are Zara’s own experiences. At the age of 14, she had never even kissed a boy, but a boy pressured her to send her a candid photo, which told her: “It will make me more like you.”
The aftermath of sharing the photo sent her into a spiral of self-loathing and depression, driving her closer to suicide.
A decade later, he is still haunted by the memory.
“The experiences I went through as a teenager were traumatic and certainly continue to affect me today,” she says.
“It’s shocking to hear other girls talk about how they went through those pressures and I put myself in those girls’ shoes.
“It breaks my heart that this is still going on. It brings it all back to me and makes me more determined to change as much as I can.”
It breaks my heart that this is still going on. it brings it all back to me
In a moving interview, she also talks to Rachel Halliwell, whose daughter Semina took her own life at age 12 when she was pressured into nudes, allegedly raped and Threatened to inform the police.
Brave mom Rachel tells Zara: “Semina was in the hospital for a few days, in a coma. On Saturday morning I held her hand and she left.
“You don’t think you’re going to lose a child. No parent should go through this.”
Zara says the heartwarming interview “will be with me forever”.
“I was incredibly touched by Semina’s mom and appreciate her bravery in every way,” she says.
“It is devastating and shocking but Semina’s case is a sad outcome of the circumstances that young girls have to face.”
Three-year-old stumbles upon child porn
The link between porn and boys’ attitudes to sex is also examined, with a girl telling Zara that a male classmate showed her friends an X-rated video and told them: “These are the posts that you are going to.”
“It gives them unrealistic ideas of beauty, like being hairless, and being small but having big boobs and a big bum,” she adds.
The boys – who were previously reluctant to speak – admitted that they had been watching porn since the ages of 11 and 12, and that they could easily access sexual violence on their smartphones, “On How Sex Is” The only education”.
One boy admitted: “When boys watch porn they can misinterpret what it really is like. Not all girls like to be thrown on the bed, and suffocated and things like that, and a guy might walk into a room thinking a girl likes it. ,
“Porn is so readily available and there is almost no age verification on the sites,” says Zara.
“One of the boys was three years old when he stumbled upon a porn website, when his mother cast a children’s movie for him and an ad for the site popped up on the sidelines.
“So it’s not always what kids want to see, but what they’re exposed to, and that’s screwing up young people’s minds.
“Girls look at it and think about what they should be doing and how they should look, which is unrealistic and boys take the idea of a first sexual encounter from a completely fake, scripted scenario.”
It is not always what children want to see, but what they are exposed to, and it is spoiling the minds of young people.
Zara’s boyfriend Sam Thompson, 29, admitted to watching porn at the age of 13 and said he would be younger if he had grown up with a smartphone.
“God help the kids today because they have everything at the touch of a button,” he says.
“You would have the mind of a saint to avoid it, but people are curious. Who knows at what age if I had porn I would have started watching porn.”
Zara was shocked to see some of the headlines deliberately using violent language on the popular site Pornhub – and says the lack of strong age verification is surprising.
The government’s pledge to introduce stronger age verification laws as part of the new Online Harms Bill was lifted in December 2020 – despite a recent Middlesex University study that found 53 percent of 11 to 16-year-olds saw clear content and before 94 percent of them they were 14.
“Porn is harmful to kids,” says Zara. “You do need to show ID to drink or gamble, but you don’t need to show ID to watch violent, sometimes non-consensual pornography. How is that possible?”
Only fans and boys ‘confused’ by sexy Tik Tok post
In recent years, speaking out about sexual assault and assault of girls and women has been a premise of online forums such as Invite Everyone and Screengrab Them – where school-age victims report abusive texts and online messages .
Zara and Sam both appreciate the girls for talking but say that the boys need help understanding how they can change and that it is “important” that they engage in the conversation.
“There is a rebellion going on at the moment and women are finding their voice a lot more, calling out men and boys on their behavior, which is amazing,” says Zara.
“But it’s also forcing boys to hold back and not want to talk about it, because they’re worried about expressing their feelings and potentially getting it wrong, or being punished for it.
“They don’t know how to approach girls. These are teenagers who find each other attractive and want to talk to each other about sex but are not getting the help they need to understand.”
Sam agrees that the boys are constantly bombarded with sexual images, leaving them confused.
“You have TikTok, for example, that sexually abuses young women, and kids have been watching it since they were eight or nine, and they only have to contend with fans now,” he says.
“On the one hand, people are telling them the right thing – which Zara’s documentary does in a powerful way – and on the other, they have people selling OnlyFans subscriptions, saying ‘pay it and you’re all that. You can see what you want and more’.
“How is a teen going to navigate right and wrong when she’s bombarded with porn and only fans?
“I would hate to be a young boy today. It’s an awfully difficult place to be a young woman, but it ain’t easy…