The Department for Education has warned schools about ‘rape culture’, as more than 10,000 allegations have been made by pupils nationwide.
A new helpline called Everyone’s Invited has been inundated with reports of sexual abuse, assault and violence.
Founder Soma Sara set up the helpline in June last year to “eradicate rape culture”, after sharing her own experiences via Instagram.
The site reads: “This movement was created in response to these stories that reveal the urgent need to tackle these deeply entrenched patterns of abuse that exist all around us.”
Since its launch, the site has received over 10,000 testimonies to date, and more than 100 schools have been named in the harrowing, anonymous accounts – including fee-paying schools, such as Dulwich college, Latymer upper school and Westminster school.
That said, Ms Sara warns that by focusing on several, high-profile schools, there’s a risk of minimising the issue: “When we narrow our focus on a school, a demographic, or as an individual, we risk making these cases seem like anomalies. But this isn’t rare; it happens all the time.”
The reports on Everyone’s Invited have warranted a response from the Government, with a source at the Department for Education saying: “Where schools do not meet the strict safeguarding standards that we have in place, we will always take action.
“If it becomes clear that there are current failings in any school’s safeguarding practice, we will immediately ask Ofsted or the Independent Schools Inspectorate to conduct an inspection. If a school is found to not be meeting the required safeguarding standard, we will make sure it either improves or closes.”
Speaking to the Times, Simon Bailey, the national police lead for child protection, said: “If somebody has been privy to rape or serious sexual assault, then we want to hear from them.”
He also blamed the “volume of pornographic material that’s being consumed”, claiming, “There’s an erosion of an understanding of what normal sexual relationships look like.”
England’s Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, wrote on Twitter: “No school – whether an independent school or state school – should ever be an environment where young people feel unsafe, let alone somewhere that sexual abuse can take place.”
He added: “The allegations that I have heard in recent days are shocking and abhorrent.”
A statement on the website Everyone’s Invited reads: “Moving forward, we know that our responsibility lies in improving and healing the wounds we have uncovered.
“We do not condone or believe in cancel culture. We have taken crucial steps to ensure that everything on our platform is anonymised for this reason.”
It continues: “We urge our community to practice empathy. To reconcile is to understand both sides, to listen, and try our best to understand people’s experiences, thoughts, and actions.
“Reconciliation does not mean to “forgive and forget” but to “forgive and go forward”. Together we are building on the mistakes of the past and working towards reconciliation and creating a new future.”
Scotland Yard is now reviewing the testimonies on the site, to establish if any potential victims in London may consider reporting the crimes, while a source at the Department for Education has said schools will be urgently investigated and will face tough sanctions if it is found that they failed to address concerns.