LONDON — For weeks, the harrowing anonymous testimonies have poured in, one after another.
Accusations of sexual assault of girls as young as 9. Girls shamed by classmates after intimate photos were circulated without their consent. One girl was blamed by classmates after she reported being raped at a party.
On a platform called Everyone’s Invited, thousands of young women and girls in Britain have recently been sharing frank accounts of sexual violence, sexism and misogyny during their time as students — accusations of everything including criminal sexual attacks to coercive encounters to verbal harassment to unwanted touching — offering raw and unfiltered discussions of their personal trauma.
But when taken together, the accusations paint a troubling picture of widespread sexual violence by students both within the school walls and outside, particularly at parties. In addition to reports of violence, the accounts also included claims of sexism and misogyny.
“This is a real problem,” said Soma Sara, the 22-year-old Londoner who founded Everyone’s Invited. “Rape culture is real.”
killing of Sarah Everard, whose abduction from a London street in early March set off a national conversation about violence women face.
Schools, local and national officials have begun investigations. On Wednesday, the government tasked an education body with conducting an immediate review of safeguarding policies in both public and private schools.
Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council leader for child protection, told the BBC on Monday, “We have a real problem here.”
A helpline will be launched on Thursday, and criminal allegations investigated, the Department of Education said. London’s Metropolitan Police encouraged victims to report crimes to the authorities.
While the accounts omit the names of both victims and perpetrators, they identify the schools the students attended, whether the alleged assaults took place on school grounds or elsewhere. Some were prestigious private schools that soon made headlines.
Dulwich College, King’s College School, Highgate School, Latymer Upper School and more — have now written open letters to school leaders by name, detailing a culture of silence and victim blaming. In one instance, a former student said she was discouraged from taking legal action in a sexual assault case. In another, girls described being groped in a school hallway.
King’s College School and Highgate School issued statements saying they have begun independent reviews of the accusations and school policies, and Latymer Upper School said it had encouraged students to come to school authorities directly. Some of the schools named did not respond directly to requests for comment, but in local news reports similarly said they were taking the matter seriously and investigating in some cases.
Accusations of sexual abuse are not the province only of elite prep schools. Dozens of schools, universities and state-run schools have been named, though testimonies received after March 23 no longer identify the institutions. The thousands of stories speak to a pervasive problem facing young women and girls, Ms. Sara said, adding she hoped the focus on certain prominent schools would not distract attention from the bigger issues.
“If we point the finger at a person, at a place, at a demographic, you’re actually making it seem like these cases are rare or just anomalies, when really, they’re not rare,” she said.