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Abuse at private schools - is this story believable?
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TOPIC: Abuse at private schools - is this story believable?

Abuse at private schools - is this story believable? 3 Weeks, 6 Days ago  
Abuse at private schools is in the news.

Schools 'must involve police' in rape claims

Serious claims of sexual violence and harassment in schools must be reported to the police, England's children's commissioner Rachel de Souza has said.

It comes as allegations of rape, sexual abuse and misogyny, first reported by the Times, have been made by pupils at a number of independent schools.

The BBC has spoken to female ex-pupils at one school in London, where a girl said sexual violence was "prolific".

Dame Rachel said it was "alarming" but schools had clear advice to follow.

Pupils at a number of schools in England have made public accusations of sexual violence by fellow pupils.

Do you find the story below believable? I find the alleged reaction of the headmaster, announcing it to the whole school, hard to believe. Surely that would have been a serious breach of an ethical code and if he'd said this in front of other staff they could have reported him. Or are private schools a law unto themselves when it comes to how pupils are treated? At one point she also says it was "hushed up", which seems to contradict the claim that it was announced to the whole school and she subsequently faced nasty comments from staff and pupils.

I experienced rape culture as a 13-year-old girl – and my school publicly blamed me

After an older boy at my public school pressured me into a sex act, l was shamed and blamed - while he was treated as a hero

By Anonymous author

Over the past weeks, I’ve read reports in the news about public school rape culture at some of the country’s most prestigious - and expensive - institutions with grim recognition.

I was slut-shamed, named and victim-blamed publicly in an assembly held by the headmaster at the public school I attended at the age of 13, after a sixth former pressured me into a sex act.

That sixth former had then proceeded to brag about his conquest to such an extent that the incident was relayed to staff.

The school's response was to interrogate me and press me for all the gory details as if I had done something disgraceful. This sense of disgrace was then compounded by the headmaster's public announcement to the entire school that I had “performed fellatio”.

Before I was suspended I was told that I was “misguided”. I think they wanted to make an example of me, and deter others from being similarly misguided.

The sixth former was suspended too, but returned to supportive backslapping from his peers, who treated him as a hero. I, on the other hand, was subjected to frequent name-calling and shaming; shouted at in graphic terms about what I had done by his fellow sixth formers as I walked to my lessons.

Naturally, the subsequent shame, the sense of guilt and the damage to my self-esteem was almost too much for my 13-year-old self to bear.

I didn’t want to leave the school, having worked hard to apply for and receive financial support to attend it, so I stayed. But I spent the remainder of my school years feeling utterly worthless and at fault as I continued to be the recipient of mean jokes and comments from both staff and fellow pupils.

Meanwhile, the sixth former in question was later awarded positions of responsibility.

My coping mechanism was to throw myself into my studies and to make a success of myself, as a two-fingers-up to the way I had been treated. But there’s no doubt that I suffered as a result.

My dream was to go to Cambridge. When that didn’t work out, I opted for a Russell Group university instead where, once again, my experiences were marred by the toxic lad culture then accepted as the norm among privileged and entitled male students.

There were rugby dinners during which girls were encouraged to drink alcohol from post-match rugby boots, and “golf pros and tennis hoes” themed fresher’s week parties.

I continue to feel deeply hurt - but also angry - that the education I had always wanted and still treasure so much as a great privilege was scarred in this way.

If any representatives of the school in question are reading this (just last week, one contacted me out of the blue to ask if I would be interested in giving a careers talk), I hope you take this opportunity to reflect on the way this incident was handled, and think for a moment how damaging it must have been to a young girl. A child.

And if the man who that sixth former has become is reading this, I hope you will realise that how the school protected you was wrong.

If he or the school recognises themselves in this account, I strongly feel that their only reasonable come back to me is an apology.

While I feel compelled to tell my side of the story to warn of the dangers to young girls and women when lad culture is left unchecked and handled irresponsibly, I’m not yet ready to waive my anonymity and reveal my identity. For me, it remains a wound that needs to be healed, and I’m still working on it.

If just one person in the room had suggested the situation should be handled sensitively, rather than blamed on me and hushed up, my teenage years might have been very different.

Watching a recent TV documentary about the child abuse sex abuse scandal in football in the 1970’s made me realise that the voicing of any story relating to rape culture (defined as a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalised due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality) is crucial to holding institutional failings to account, to prevent tragedies that could otherwise be avoided.

When they are subject to sexual expectations and demands are made of them, girls need to see examples which show that it’s more than OK to have boundaries. They need to know that if someone treats them badly or takes advantage, it is that person who is at fault and who should be ashamed, not them.

Too many women, I'm sure, will recognise elements of my story. But it shouldn’t be the norm for girls to feel they have to do things - such as sending nude photographs, putting them at risk of revenge porn - because it’s expected of them. That is especially the case when there is an imbalance of power, such as an age gap or a position of authority.

Crucially, it is the responsibility of us all to ensure that boys and men are taught to respect women in the first place. It’s of vital importance that teenagers are taught and shown how to have happy and healthy sexual relationships based on mutual respect, in a more compassionate culture that is conducive to forming them.

If sexism is as endemic in our schools as the recent flood of reports suggests then a seismic shift is required. If we don’t call out the behaviour typical of rape culture, we enable it, and we are complicit.

I admire anyone who feels able to go public with their experiences, and I sincerely hope that fewer and fewer teenage girls will be treated as I was, as a result of the recent concerns raised over insidious misogyny in schools. Time’s up.

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Re:Abuse at private schools - is this story believable? 3 Weeks, 5 Days ago  
Evidence that is apart from the anonymous stories would help. Modern age so conversations (bullying and inappropriate comments) can be recorded and video'd and there are text messages in all those other apps. Complaints documented from parents, teachers and pupils at the time of the bad behaviour. Of course behaviour can be bad from both guys and girls. But there has so far been no mention of actual evidence. And this is the modern age.

What an unbelievable world we live in. So much evidence can not be made and yet all that is examined and reported are the stories alone.

Rape culture does sound odd. Permissive society yes. Bullies and other similar people yes. Always existed. But rape culture sounds like a headline grabber.

(NB Rape well there is DNA) Just remembered all those university stories and many were exaggerations or completely made up. Rapes do happen of course as does lying.

But here key is real evidence to get to the truth, that's what I personally want in the news, fed up with hearsay.
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Re:Abuse at private schools - is this story believable? 3 Weeks, 5 Days ago  
I once had a teacher who announced that a girl in my class had been concealing "French letters" up her sleeve.
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Re:Abuse at private schools - is this story believable? 3 Weeks, 5 Days ago  
I must have been a really unusual teenager. At my school if someone tried it on when I didn't want them to I asked them to stop. Usually they did, and if they didn't I would deliver a withering comment and sneer at them.

It would never have occurred to me to let them have their wicked way when I wasn't interested.
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Re:Abuse at private schools - is this story believable? 3 Weeks, 5 Days ago  
I don't have experience of Independent schools but can't imagine any of my teachers at my Comprehensive in the 1980s behaving as crassly and nastily as the teachers mentioned here are alleged to have.

Sounds pretty unbelievable to me. And all annonymous...well...not worth the time to read it.
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Green Man

Re:Abuse at private schools - is this story believable? 3 Weeks, 5 Days ago  
There were a few dodgy teachers in my school.

The head caretaker also got a year 9 pupil pregnant via a rape

I just remember school just being unpleasant and depressing.
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Re:Abuse at private schools - is this story believable? 3 Weeks, 5 Days ago  
This article refers to evidence apart from anonymous accounts.

Why are girls calling out 'rape culture' at Britain’s top public schools?

As girls in London stage walkouts over abuse at the hands of male peers, concerns are growing that an institutional problem may be afoot

By Rosa Silverman ; Eleanor Steafel and Luke Mintz

This morning, a slew of red ribbons are being tied to the wrought iron gates of one of the most prestigious private schools in the country.

After yesterday’s walkout by girls at Highgate School in north London, those at James Allen's Girls School (JAGS) in Dulwich, a leafy enclave on the other side of the capital, are staging their own day-long demonstration against the so-called ‘rape culture’ they say lies at the heart of the public school system – each ribbon representing a testimony of sexual violence.

The protest comes in the wake of thousands of shocking allegations that have come to light from students, past and present, this month – painting a depressing portrait of sexual humiliation, harassment, abuse and even rape as a fixture of Britain’s private school experience.

Many of the country’s top independent institutions have been named on Everyone’s Invited, a website and 32,000 follower-strong Instagram page set up last year by former private schoolgirl and sexual abuse survivor Soma Sara, 22, as a platform for claims of sexual harassment – which have skyrocketed amid the conversation about female safety triggered by the death of Sarah Everard.

The alleged perpetrators aren’t named, but the establishments are, and although these problems aren’t exclusively the preserve of the independent sector, the number of allegations emerging about a string of Britain’s most prestigious schools raises uncomfortable questions: do these settings have a particular problem with rape culture? And if so, what has allowed it to flourish?

Last week, Ava Vakil published an open letter online about what she branded “the deep-rooted culture of misogyny” at King’s College School, Wimbledon – describing the £20,000 a year private school as a “hotbed of sexual violence,” and the label of a “King’s boy” having come to mean “a privileged, usually white, usually wealthy boy who engages in derogatory behaviour towards women.”

Vakil, now a second year Oxford University undergraduate, attended Wimbledon High School, an independent girls’ school that sits a 20-minute walk from King’s, and with whose pupils King’s boys frequently socialise. Speaking to The Telegraph over the phone, she doesn’t want to discuss her own personal experiences, but says “misogynistic behaviour” at King’s was “common knowledge” among her peers.

At the end of her two-page letter, addressed to the King’s headteacher, Andrew Halls, she included a further eight pages of anonymous testimonies gathered from current and former pupils of Wimbledon High, King’s and other local schools, accusing male pupils of threatening rape, circulating nude photos of girls without their knowledge in group chats, and violent and drunken sexual assaults.

“This is a culture problem,” says Vakil, a smart and articulate 19-year-old. “The attitude of entitlement and that lack of respect for women shows itself in a lot of different forms.”

Today’s protest at JAGS follows an open letter last Sunday by Samuel Schulenburg, 19, a former pupil at its £21,246-a-year brother school, Dulwich College, a mile down the road, accusing his alma mater of being a “breeding ground for sexual predators,” and detailing more than 100 anonymous accounts of “assault, revenge pornography and slut shaming... exacerbated by... young men who... laughed at stories of sexual violence”.

A current student at JAGS – some of whose pupils contributed anonymous testimonies to the letter, accusing Dulwich College boys of assault, harassment and sharing intimate photos online – told The Telegraph the toxic culture was “large scale.” Ahead of today’s protests, the girls had printed out screenshots of threatening, explicit messages sent to them by Dulwich College boys and pinned them up around their own school corridors.

“Seeing them collectively was so disturbing because we understood that to an extent we’ve been brainwashed, and the effects of the normalisation and the allowance of this behaviour,” she says, “making us think their abuse wasn’t valid unless it was rape.”

Dr Joe Spence, Master of Dulwich College, said the school was listening to feedback, in particular that from JAGS, and “condemns unreservedly” the behaviour and attitudes reported in the open letter. He added that they are “acting and will act on any case where an individual pupil is named, passing cases to the police where there is an allegation of criminal behaviour.”

One 48 year-old mother, who asked to remain anonymous, has a son at Dulwich College and a daughter at JAGS, and says both sexes are being failed, with rape allegations crippling boys who say they have been falsely accused, alongside a culture that leaves girls open to abuse.

She is anxious that teenage boys aren’t “demonised” as a result of the conversation now dominating headlines daily: “They’ve got porn, weed and booze, so what kind of behaviour can we expect when there’s not really a cogent, proper, sex-positive way of educating them?” she says.

James Allen's Girls School told The Telegraph: "The safeguarding of our pupils is our absolute priority. We are acting upon any disclosures brought to our attention, offering support to those students who come forward, and reporting to the relevant external authorities where appropriate."

Of course, derogatory, misogynistic and abusive behaviour towards girls predates smartphones – “I’ve had messages from women who went to Wimbledon High School 30 to 40 years ago, telling me this was the behaviour of King’s boys when they were there,” says Vakil – but it’s possible social media and the availability of online porn has left school safeguarding policies struggling to keep up with technology.

One 20-year-old former public school boy describes the sharing of explicit images via Snapchat as currency among classmates: “It was the cultural capital. Who was sexting who, that was your ranking... It very quickly just became the norm. It was almost like if you weren’t doing that it was weird.”

The schools themselves stand accused of not doing enough to teach consent or to punish students who are found to have carried out abusive behaviour.

“There seems to be this particular intersection between class and race privilege and I think at these schools boys are encouraged to view themselves as a cut above,” says Vakil. “Ultimately that can feed into this kind of behaviour. Because if you grow up thinking people like you aren’t held accountable for their actions that is absolutely going to affect the way you behave, [including] towards women.”

As Vakil notes in her letter, private schools produce pupils who then progress to positions of influence, perhaps disproportionately so.

“If these boys are growing up and entering the world in high level positions of extreme influence and power, it’s so important to make sure they don’t carry these attitudes with them, because the butterfly effect of that is just huge,” she says.

Steve Biddulph, a parenting expert and bestselling author of Raising Boys, wrote in The Telegraph last week: “Two groups in society do the worst job with raising boys – the wealthy and the very poor,” with some upper class families “outsourcing” the raising of their children.

He says: “It’s entirely possible for a boy from a well-off family to grow up with no men close to him, no-one connected to his inner world. A father can be an aloof, distracted or distant figure. No teachers at school relate to him on a deep or individual level. He becomes a herd animal, and the herd is made up of other deficient boys who have no moral compass. This is how rape culture arises.

“We are not raising proper human beings, but a kind of arrested permanent adolescents.”

There are signs, however, that the current moment could be a turning point. On Tuesday, Vakil had a constructive meeting with the King’s headteacher, Andrew Halls to discuss the contents of her letter and the school is conducting an independent review.

Halls told The Telegraph: “I am grateful to Ava for sharing these testimonies and for finding time to talk to me. These accounts are shocking, and we will not tolerate any form of abuse or discrimination... and we will act on what Ava has told us.”

“I was incredibly encouraged,” says Vakil. “They showed a willingness to listen and a commitment to make change. I am very happy they are beginning to acknowledge the scale of this problem and no longer attempting to deny the prevalence of this culture. Of course, this must be followed by action.”

In further evidence of positive action in south London today, the mother of the JAGS and Dulwich College siblings reports there will be a group of supportive boys “protesting alongside the girls.”

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Re:Abuse at private schools - is this story believable? 3 Weeks, 5 Days ago  
Who says romance is dead Jo!?

When I was at school I was - yes full of hormonal fire - but also a hopeless romantic. This may have been because I read so much so young. I was desperate to save tragic Tess of the d'Urbervilles and fretted for poor Anna as soon as she met Vronsky...I suppose if I had instead grown up with sexting and hardcore porn I may have been a less sensitive boy...

Mind you being not short of admirers myself I made up big style for my earlier romantic hesitations when I got to University
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Green Man

Re:Abuse at private schools - is this story believable? 3 Weeks, 4 Days ago  
Wyot wrote:
Who says romance is dead Jo!?

When I was at school I was - yes full of hormonal fire - but also a hopeless romantic. This may have been because I read so much so young. I was desperate to save tragic Tess of the d'Urbervilles and fretted for poor Anna as soon as she met Vronsky...I suppose if I had instead grown up with sexting and hardcore porn I may have been a less sensitive boy...

Mind you being not short of admirers myself I made up big style for my earlier romantic hesitations when I got to University

Harold Robbins on steroids.
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Re:Abuse at private schools - is this story believable? 3 Weeks, 1 Day ago  
Maybe some here will dismiss this as just modern "romance", but it seems like abuse to me.

Porn has corrupted our children – and we let it happen

Our offspring wander through the dank dungeon of the internet largely without supervision so we shouldn't be shocked at the damage it causes

I wish I could say that the scandal about a “rape culture” in private schools comes as a surprise. More than 10,000 “testimonies” by young women (and a few guys) who have experienced sexual abuse have been posted on the website Everyone’s Invited. The stories range from boys pressuring girls to send them nude pictures to truly repulsive acts of personal humiliation. Schools which feature in the rollcall of shame include eminent academic institutions like Dulwich College and Highgate.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, who is heading a taskforce to investigate the allegations, has encouraged parents to report their own sons if they suspect them of sexual assault. Good luck with that.

Older readers may think that sexual harassment in schools is hardly new. But snogging behind the bike sheds and furtive gropings atop the pile of gym mats in the PE store look like a gentleman’s calling card on a silver salver in Jane Austen compared with today’s brutish couplings.

Eight years ago, I wrote a piece that many readers found deeply shocking. It came about after a friend’s daughter started at a mixed-sex boarding school. When the mother asked how she was getting on, the girl said: “OK, but you have to give the boys blow jobs or they get cross.” My startled friend protested that her darling 14-year-old did not have to do anything of the sort. “Oh, yes you do, Mummy,” the girl replied, “and you have to shave down there or the boys don’t like it.”

There was one graphic piece of the story that I withheld. Look away now if you’re at all queasy. As part of the initiation ceremony at the famous boarding school, the rugby team lined up between the goalposts and the new girls knelt down to service them. Equality between the sexes was working out well, wasn’t it?

I said back then that it was enough to unleash my inner Mary Whitehouse and I really meant it. The campaigner with the perm of steel was much mocked for being a prude, but Mrs Whitehouse wasn’t wrong about the corrupting influence of pornography. The kind of dirty mags that boys had to pluck up courage to buy from the top shelf of the newsagent when I was a teenager has been replaced by access-all-hours hardcore material online. Mobile phones only acted as rocket boosters to plunge the depths of depravity.

I remember my daughter’s bemusement when I queried the social nicety of receiving a picture of a boy’s penis before you’d actually met him. “Everyone does dick pics, Mum,” came the weary response.

My concern only grew when I was having dinner with a group of women and the conversation turned to how on earth we were supposed to raise sons and daughters who were capable of forming meaningful relationships in an age when kids had free access to the sewer of the internet.

Sue, a GP, said: “I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.” Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries caused by anal sex; not because her patient wanted it – on the contrary – but because a boy expected her to. The girls were deeply ashamed at presenting with incontinence. They had lied to their mums and felt they couldn’t confide in anyone else. When Sue questioned them further, they said they were humiliated by the experience, but they felt they couldn’t say no. Anal sex was standard among teenagers now, even though the girls knew that it hurt.

Sue worked in the leafy heart of Hampshire. The girls were often under the age of consent and from loving, stable homes. Just the sort of kids who, only two generations ago, would have been enjoying riding and ballet lessons, and still looking forward to their first kiss, not being coerced into violent sex by some kid who picked up his ideas about physical intimacy from a dogging video on his phone.

Pornography is ubiquitous; children are exposed to the nastiest imagery from a tender age. They don’t have to be looking for it - sickening pop-ups often just appear. I make no excuses for the boys who feature in gross anecdotes on Everyone’s Invited. I do notice that many of the revolting things they did to girls come straight out of the porn playbook. Like the Russian jerk who peed on his victim.

Just to cloud the already murky, malodorous waters, young girls have been warped by the same highly-sexualised culture. “You wouldn’t believe the pics some girls send you,” one kid at a boarding school told me. And not all boys subscribe to laddish culture and can be deeply respectful around potential girlfriends.

There are no easy answers here. The school in Australia which made boys stand up in assembly and apologise to the girls for all the rapes committed by their gender made the error of blaming innocent young males for circumstances which are largely beyond their control. My generation has allowed its offspring to wander through the dank dungeon of the internet largely unsupervised. What right do we have to take the moral high ground when they imitate the foul things they found there?

We could start by telling all our sons that pornography is not a primer for a relationship. And our daughters not to tolerate anything which hurts or disgusts them. Then erect an almighty paywall around internet porn and pray that impressionable minds don’t get polluted too young.
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