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Thousands of testimonies of sexual assault and harassment in English schools

“Everyone’s invited” – “Everyone’s invited” – to testify. It is the name of a site collecting accounts of students and former students who claim to have suffered violence or sexual harassment while studying at a school in the United Kingdom. Created in 2020, it now lists more than 9,000 testimonies and brings out a subject that was previously taboo across the Channel.

“Rape culture is a problem for all schools”

Women and girls of all ages recount touching, threats to share nude photos and a general climate of misogyny in many establishments. “Rape culture is a problem for all schools”, tells the BBC Soma Sara, the founder of the site that started it all – herself a victim of school-based sexual abuse.

A sign that the liberation of speech is underway: some former students are now expressing themselves in the media, such as a 26-year-old woman, interviewed by the Times, and who claims to have been sexually assaulted by a comrade at the age of 16, while she was enrolled in the prestigious London school of Westminster. “The banker says that even though the assault was horrible, it was the attitude of the school that traumatized her the most,” writes the daily.

Because the young girl was, at the time, expelled from her establishment for the time of an investigation into her accusations. Once completed, this did not result in any sanction for his attacker.

A hundred establishments targeted, an open investigation

“No school, private or public, should ever be an environment where young people do not feel safe, and a fortiori a place where sexual abuse can take place,” responded on Twitter the British Secretary of State for ‘Education. An investigation was opened following these denunciations, which target a total of around 100 establishments.

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An investigation which will have to answer a central question: how many of these establishments with sometimes famous reputations, they covered abuses to protect themselves? “It is a very complicated subject for schools, and very often they decide not to deal with it, saying that it is a problem for the police”, explains in the Guardian Louise Whitfield, a lawyer who defends several former students.

“Now I hope they are going to have to level up, because there are barriers they can put up to protect the students. This is a wake-up call for schools, and it happens. late. “

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