[Founder of "Everyone's Invited", Soma Sara, saying:] "When those things are normalized, you can actually act as a gateway to more extreme acts and criminal acts such as sexual assault and rape.”
It’s been described as a #MeToo movement for British schools.
More than 10,000 young people have recounted what they say are teenage experiences of sexual harassment and abuse.
[Former student Monisha Jackson saying:] “Someone who was a boyfriend of a friend of mine would be trying to touch me in public places. Yeah, from as young as age 13."
Their stories have been anonymously posted on a new website called “Everyone’s Invited.”
It makes for a harrowing read.
The website was the brainchild of 22 year-old Soma Sara who says she experienced rape culture within her teenage social circle and is convinced it’s a pervasive problem.
“When I say rape culture, I'm talking about when behavior that's not normal is actually normalized, so something like groping at a Christmas party or, you know, sharing and nonconsensual sharing of intimate photos or derogatory sexist comments.”
If confirmed, some of the gravest incidents described could constitute criminal offences - including sexual assault and rape.
Monisha Jackson is a former student of a private school in south London.
She recounted several incidents that she said had left her with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Reuters was not able to independently corroborate her account.
“At 16, 16 or 17, I had come out so I identify as a queer woman now, and I had gone to supposedly a friend's house […] And he was drinking and smoking. I was drinking as well, but much less. And he raped me that night.”
As the number of posts rapidly gained pace, London’s Metropolitan Police urged people to come forward.
Simon Bailey is a senior police officer in charge of child protection issues nationally.
“I think we have to recognize that the number of testimonials on the website has not far short of doubled in the space of a week. And I think we would all recognize that as more and more victims have the confidence and courage to come forward, that we have a real problem here."
Soma attended an exclusive boarding school for girls west of London.
As such, the initiative first gained traction among pupils and alumni of private schools, including some of Britain’s most prestigious.
The posts describe a toxic, misogynistic culture among pupils, at odds with the schools’ refined reputations.
Dulwich College in London is one of the oldest and most prestigious boys’ schools in the country.
It has been mentioned in the posts, and said in a letter to parents, seen by Reuters, that it would investigate all allegations, either internally or by passing cases to the relevant authorities.
Simon Bailey: “Headmasters, teachers, governors have a responsibility to review their safeguarding arrangements, to look at the culture that exists within the school setting and to make sure that actually, as Soma has said, that it's called out.”
As the online ripples spread further, more posts have appeared linked to state schools and universities.
For Soma and Monisha, it’s an opportunity to ignite change across the board.
Soma: “We've had a lot of boys reach out to us saying that, you know, reading the stories has completely changed and altered their perspectives on these problems and made them reflect upon past behaviors and realize, you know, maybe they may have been complicit in allowing these things to happen. And it's not just boys, it's girls, too. I think everyone in society is in some form complicit.”