Everyone's Invited: Leeds sexual assault victims publish their accounts of university and school incidents
Allegations of sexual assaults at Leeds universities and schools are among thousands of testimonies shared via a website set up to challenge rape culture.
The Government has been facing mounting pressure this week to launch an independent inquiry after more than 10,000 reports were posted on the Everyone's Invited website, where students can anonymously share their experiences of misogyny, harassment, abuse and assault.
Those sharing their stories can choose whether it is published for others to read and whether they wish to identify the school, college or university where the incident took place.
One University of Leeds student wrote: "I was drugged and raped during my Freshers week at university. I told my new flatmates and they told me it wasn't worth going to the police so I didn't. One of my biggest regrets was not seeking justice at the time."
Another account naming the university read: "A guy I was dating, misled me to believe he was wearing a condom when we slept together. He also pressured me into sleeping with him after our first date."
In many cases, it is not clear whether the victim ever chose to disclose the incident to the institution, police or other support services.
One account from a Leeds student does not name the specific university but describes their experience of living with five boys during the third year of their course.
It gives an insight into the realities of trying to challenge misogynistic behaviour alone, as well as the reservations victims might hold in taking more formal action.
The account said: "As well as being extremely racist and homophobic, the way they spoke about women was disgusting. ‘Who could get with the ugliest girl’ was a game they liked and only spoke about women as objects. They loved doing it when I was in the room as they knew how upset it made me, and every time I called them out they made fun of me and accuse me of not taking a joke.
"I broke down at uni about it one day and my lecturer asked what was wrong. I told her and she said she wanted to take it to a disciplinary - to which I said no because I knew if they got kicked out they’d harass me forever.
"They found out I spoke to someone and instead [of] thanking me for saving their education and attempting to behave better, they made my life a misery."
Other accounts set out incidents taking place at secondary schools, including being harassed within sight of other people.
Writing about an experience at Woodkirk Academy in Tingley, one person said: "I was sexually harassed in the library of my school when I was 15 years old. By two of my male peers, [we] were sitting in the middle of the room where everyone could see. But no one came to my side, or even commented on what had just happened.
"I felt dirty and couldn’t visit the library for weeks."
The findings of a poll published by Plan International UK this week show that girls have experienced public sexual harassment including being "catcalled" (19 per cent) or "wolf whistled" (19 per cent), being followed (12 per cent) and being grabbed (10 per cent).
The survey, of more than 1,000 girls aged 14 to 21 in the UK, found only 39 per cent of respondents had not experienced any harassment behaviours in their learning environment.
Meanwhile, a helpline for people affected by sexual assault and harassment in schools has been set up as part of an immediate Government review into the issue.
Run by the NSPCC, it is now available to offer support and advice to children and adults who are victims of sexual abuse in schools. This includes how to contact the police and report crimes, if they wish to, while parents and professionals can also get in touch.
The move was welcomed by Woodkirk Academy, which said it was committed to ensuring all members of its school community were safe.
A spokesperson said: "We have a strong culture of safeguarding and as part of our curriculum, students have access to comprehensive Sex and Relationships Education.
"We encourage students who encounter any behaviour that is inappropriate or which makes them feel uncomfortable to raise this as we take such matters very seriously. We have clear procedures and well trained staff in place to help and support our students.
"We welcome the NSPCC helpline which will support young people alongside the work of schools."
The University of Leeds said its focus on the safety and wellbeing of students meant it had 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," a spokesperson said.
"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."
It also supports a campus liaison police officer who can offer advice to students in a university setting that they might find more comfortable than a police station.
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