It has now emerged that top universities in the UK have been named over 50 time each, on ‘rape culture’ exposure website, Everyone’s Invited.
The UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council has raised concerns about sexual abuse in schools, stating it may be the "next child abuse scandal that engulfs the nation", as it emerged that thousands of victims are sharing their stories online.
More than 15,000 victims have now anonymously posted about their experiences of sexual abuse in school or university, on website ‘Everyone’s Invited’.
The posts allege cases of sexual harassment, abuse or even rape in schools or involving other school pupils. Many of the cases concern leading private institutions, but police have stressed the claims extend beyond these schools.
So, what is the website, what have testimonies alleged, and will legal action be taken? This is what you need to know.
What is ‘Everyone’s invited’?
Everyone’s Invited is a website which was set up in 2020 by 22-year-old activist, Soma Sara.
The website aims to eradicate ‘rape culture’ by sharing stories that reveal the urgent need to tackle patterns of abuse and allow others to understand abuse that goes on in schools.
Everyone’s Invited publishes first-person accounts from young people, mostly women, living in the UK.
Sara set up the website after she shared her own personal account of rape culture on Instagram, and was subsequently inundated with several hundred people telling her their stories.
On the website, you can share your story anonymously, read other people’s testimonies and find resources which educate and inform about consent and reaching out to your school.
The site has over 30,000 supporters, with thousands of testimonies.
Sara and her team work to highlight how “behaviours such as misogyny, slut shaming, victim blaming, and sexual harassment create an environment where sexual violence and abuse can exist and thrive. All behaviours, attitudes, thoughts and experiences in this culture are interconnected.”
What have the testimonies included?
The website contains testimonials predominantly written by females, though men also share their experiences of sexual assault.
Sara said the site has attracted a “significant increase” in pupils from private institutions writing their accounts.
She said: “In the past week we have seen a very significant increase and widening of that demographic - in the increase of state schools and universities being mentioned - as well as a wider variety of ages - older people, younger people, boys and girls. And I think what this really shows is that this is a universal problem."
The testimonials do not name the authors of the posts or the alleged perpetrators, but almost always name the school or university.
Not all accounts took place in institutions, some accounts included being drugged and raped at parties, to explicit images being shared over social media platforms.
Sara also told Vogue this month that the murder of Sarah Everard in London has led to an increase in visitors to and authors on the site - as calls for increased female protection have grown.
Which universities have been identified?
Among the institutions with over 50 anonymous posts, Oxford, Exeter and University College London have been mentioned.
Out of seventeen UK universities have more than five mentions, 15 of are Russell Group universities – those with incredibly high standards, established reputations and among the best in the country.
"As Everyone's Invited has emphasised from the outset, rape culture is everywhere including in all universities,” Soma said of the number of testimonies shared on the site.
What action will be taken in light of the testimonies?
While Everyone’s Invited doesn’t report the claims made in the testimonies, the Department of Education will launch a helpline next week for those looking for support or who want to report a complaint.
Police are now asking victims to come forward, adding that any who does will receive support and advice. The police also raised concerns over “drivers” behind rape culture - including readily accessible pornography.
The Metropolitan Police has confirmed it has been "reviewing the content" of Everyone's Invited and contacted schools it could identify.
Robert Halfon, who chairs the education select committee, called for an independent inquiry to be launched into allegations of a "rape culture".
"After the police investigation, there should be an independent inquiry looking into all these allegations - what exactly has gone on, why it was allowed to take place and what the schools did to try and stop it," Mr Halfon wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.
The National Police Chiefs' Council’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey said there was a "real issue" surrounding "what children now see and view as... healthy sexual relationships".
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that parents and schools should have "that different conversation" with children to explain that "you are inevitably viewing pornography, that is not real".
"If the culture changes in schools [and universities] then we'll start to make some progress," he said.
Ofsted has also announced it would be visiting a sample of the schools mentioned to review whether they have proper safeguarding measures.
The Department for Education said it was very concerned by the allegations posted on Everyone's Invited.
A spokeswoman said: "The vast majority of schools, colleges and universities take their safeguarding responsibilities very seriously, so it is particularly shocking when allegations of abuse are made in connection with a place of education where everyone should feel secure and be protected.
"Working together, the Department for Education, the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs' Council are in contact with Everyone's Invited to provide support, protection and advice to those who are reporting abuse, including on contacting professionals or the police if they wish."