Hundreds of people have been sharing their experiences of ‘rape culture’ on a new website, prompting an investigation by the Metropolitan Police and calls for an inquiry by a senior MP.
The Metropolitan Police has said it has received multiple reports of offences having reviewed the Everyone’s Invited website.
Many of the claims on the site, which are uploaded anonymously, relate to incidents at independent or private schools, prompting calls for a review by Conservative MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon.
The website was set up by Soma Sara, after she shared her own experiences of rape culture on social media, prompting many people to reply with their own stories.
The site publishes anonymous testimonies about sexual assaults and abuse, and offers a number of services such as a list of organisations which can offer support to victims.
What are the police doing about this?
The Metropolitan Police said officers have been establishing whether any potential victims in London could be encouraged to report crimes, with several people coming forward.
It said where schools had been named on the website, officers have been making contact with them to offer specialist support to any potential victims.
A link is also now available on the website to directly report crimes to Scotland Yard.
On Friday, the Met began a series of meetings to determine the force’s response to the accounts on the site and the wider issues.
‘More widespread than private schools’
Scotland Yard’s rape and sexual offences lead Detective Superintendent Mel Laremore said more than 100 schools are cited on the “Everyone’s Invited” website.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday it is a “national issue”, adding: “I think it’s more widespread than private schools. I think we’re still looking into the exact scope of how wide this is spread but certainly I know there’s already over 100 schools cited on the website which do reach out to national parameters.
“The private school element of this is a factor, in that certainly for us as the Metropolitan Police we have a safer schools officers and a safer schools network, we have identified ourselves that there isn’t a safer schools network within the private schools.”
DS Laremore added: “We welcome any initiative which encourages any victim-survivor of a sexual offence to speak out and seek support.
“It is deeply concerning to see the number of accounts published on this website, many of which appear to relate to previous or current experiences within educational settings in London and across the country.
“We take all allegations of sexual assault very seriously. We understand the complex and varied reasons why many victim-survivors do not contact law enforcement, but I want to personally reassure anyone who needs our help that we are absolutely here for you.”
She added: “It’s apparent some of the incidents referred to on this website may have occurred some years ago.
“Regardless of how long ago an offence took place, I would like to remind any victim-survivor that support is available for you should you wish to speak to us.”
‘Horrified and deeply shocked’
Highgate School, a north London private school, announced it would be launching an independent review into issues raised.
A school spokesperson said: “We are horrified and deeply shocked by the testimonies on ‘Everyone’s Invited’ and elsewhere.
“The governing body have appointed The Rt Hon Dame Anne Rafferty to lead the independent review into the issues raised by the testimonies.”
MP calls for independent inquiry
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Halfon said that what has allegedly been happening at some of the country’s most distinguished schools was “appalling” and it had spread to state schools too.
The chair of the Education Select Committee said that countless stories had emerged of female pupils being “objectified, harassed and sexually assaulted”, with websites set up by students highlighting “a rape culture”.
Mr Halfon said senior staff had been “at best unable or at worst unwilling” to deal with what had gone on.
He welcomed the investigation by the Metropolitan Police but said an independent inquiry should be launched after the police probe.
Mr Halfon added: “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.