14 April 2021

Elite universities named on website exposing ‘rape culture’ allegations

14 April 2021

More than 80 British universities have been named on a website where students have been anonymously sharing experiences of sexual harassment, abuse, assault and misogyny.

A number of the UK’s top institutions, including Exeter and Oxford, have been mentioned more than 50 times on the Everyone’s Invited website – which has highlighted allegations of a “rape culture” at schools.

Of the 17 universities in the UK with more than five mentions on the website, 15 are Russell Group universities – which are traditionally the most selective institutions in the UK.

Soma Sara, founder of the Everyone’s Invited website, told the PA news agency: “As Everyone’s Invited has emphasised from the outset, rape culture is everywhere including in all universities.”

Her comments came after more than 14,800 testimonies have been posted on the site.

Rape culture is everywhere including in all universities

Last week, Ofsted said it would be visiting a sample of schools and carrying out a review into whether institutions had effective safeguarding measures in place following allegations of sexual abuse.

Now Everyone’s Invited is turning its attention to the 84 UK universities which have been named by students.

In just one week – between March 26 and April 2 – the website received more than 1,000 new testimonies from universities, the campaigners say.

The University of Exeter was mentioned 65 times, while the University of Oxford was mentioned 57 times.

Edinburgh and Leeds universities were also both mentioned 53 times.

A number of prestigious London universities also featured in the list, including University College London (48 mentions), King’s College London (28 mentions) and London School of Economics (26 mentions).

When asked why more prestigious universities had more mentions, Ms Sara told PA: “There are logical reasons for this bias. The platform is still new, and it has grown through word of mouth, with friends sharing it with friends.

“I went to a private school and then a university in London. As a result, we received an abundance of testimonies from certain areas and groups.”

Our universities take this issue incredibly seriously and provide a range of support to help students feel supported and safe

A Russell Group spokesman said: “No student should feel unsafe or have to tolerate harassment or sexual misconduct in any circumstance. Our universities take this issue incredibly seriously and provide a range of support to help students feel supported and safe.

“Where a crime has been committed it should be reported to the police. The testimonies highlighted via the Everyone’s Invited website show the need for us all to take this issue seriously.

“Our members are working with Universities UK to address this issue at a sector-wide level and will continue to do so to ensure campuses are places of safety and respect for others at all times.”

A University of Exeter spokesman said: “The safety, security and wellbeing of our students is, and always will be, our primary concern.

“We have put in place a wide range of safety and support measures, improved our policies and reporting system and continue to work with students, colleagues and community partners to tackle misogyny and violence against women.

“We have made it clear to all members of our community that we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, abuse or assault, and that criminal or disciplinary proceedings will be brought against those who commit these offences. Any form of violence or sexual violence is always a crime.

“We will continue to support each other and work together to keep all members of our community safe and feeling safe.

“We encourage all students to report and get the support they need through our Exeter Speaks Out web pages as well as our wellbeing support for students and staff or the Students’ Guild Advice Service or the Students’ Union Advice Service.”

A University of Leeds spokesman said: “The safety and wellbeing of our students is our top priority and we have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual assault.

“We encourage complainants to report criminal offences to the police and support students and staff through our reporting procedure, which can be used anonymously if preferred.

“Developed with Leeds University Students’ Union (LUU), this procedure triggers support from the Student Counselling and Wellbeing Service and the LUU’s Help and Support service, among other groups.

“We continue to work closely with LUU to ensure that we are responding to the needs of students in our policies and support.”

A University of Edinburgh spokesman said: “We recognise that sexual violence is a problem in society and the University has a duty to help address the problem.

“We are committed to addressing the issue of sexual violence on campus and have invested significantly in awareness raising, delivering training for students and staff and ensuring there is effective professional support available for any student who needs it.

“We take all complaints about any students or staff members seriously, and deal with any incidents that are brought to our attention in a sensitive manner.

“We encourage students to use our official reporting channels so that we are then able to fully investigate any incidents and provide those affected with the help and support they need.”

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