There are over 12,000 reports of abuse or violence, both verbal and physical, for what is now called 'rape culture' in British schools and universities. It is a scandal on a national level. It all started a couple of weeks ago, when the harrowing anonymous testimonies began pouring in, one after another, on a platform called Everyone’s Invited.
The Everyone's Invited website is a safe place for anonymous claims of sexual harassment and assault. It was set up in June 2020 by former schoolgirl and sex abuse survivor Soma Sara, 22, but testimonials have escalated since Sarah Everard’s tragedy and the female safety movement triggered by it.
On the website, thousands of young British women have been sharing their stories about sexual violence, sexism and misogyny during their time as students. Girls as young as 9 offer raw and unfiltered discussions of their personal trauma. The accusations vary from criminal sexual attacks to coercive encounters to verbal harassment to unwanted touching. Just to name a few, there are stories about girls who have been molested in front of cheering pupils in parks, coerced into having sex at parties and forced to send nude photos to older boys.
The identities of the victims remained anonymous, but not the schools where the terrible incidents occurred. Indeed, many of these testimonies clearly reveal in which school or university the person who assaulted them is, or was. A senior Met Police officer has said that more than 100 institutions throughout the whole country have been named.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Soma Sara, the founder on Everyone’s Invited said rape culture is in all schools. "Why are we narrowing when we should be widening? Rape culture is endemic. It’s in all schools, all universities and all of society. All generations, young and old, are invited. The title Everyone's Invited really means what it says. This is a universal problem. It’s a global issue. And I think it’s so important that we don’t narrow our focus to private schools, because it risks making these cases seem like they’re rare or anomalies, or that these patterns of abuse can only happen in certain places. But no, they happen everywhere, all the time. And they can happen to anyone.”
The powerful testimonies are unfiltered and for this reason they paint a troubling picture of widespread sexual violence by students, inside and outside school walls. These stories have exploded in a national examination of sexual violence, highlighting what accusers call a toxic culture of shame, silencing and victim blaming. In their testimonies, many of the victims also complain that school officials have done little or nothing to combat or punish the crimes.
The government and the institutes should take immediate action, both to indict offenders and to assure no other incidents like these will ever occur. At the moment, only a few independent schools such as Highgate School and Dulwich College have said they will take action following the online allegations.
Detective Superintendent Mel Laremore, the Met’s lead for rape and sexual offences, said in a released statement: “We welcome any initiative which encourages any victim-survivor of a sexual offence to speak out and seek support. It is deeply concerning to see the number of accounts published on this website, many of which appear to relate to previous or current experiences within educational settings in London and across the country. We take all allegations of sexual assault very seriously. Regardless of how long ago an offence took place, I would like to remind any victim-survivor that support is available for you should you wish to speak to us.”
It’s time to stop normalising and trivialising these sicking actions. Schools and universities aren’t a place where girls and young women should feel unsafe or where abuse could take place without consequences. Schools and universities are the place where girls and young women should feel good, safe, empowered and free.
Credit picture: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock
Written by Miriam Tagini