Wednesday, August 4

Alumni Who Compiled Sexual Abuse File Accused of Blocking Investigation | Rape and sexual assault


Alumni of a private school in south-east London who compiled a file of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations were shocked to receive a letter from the school’s lawyers accusing them of obstructing investigations into the incidents.

The students, who attended Eltham College in Bromley, said they expected to receive a compassionate response after collecting testimonies from past and present students alleging sexism, sexual harassment, abuse and assault, and referred them to the school, inspired by Everyone’s Invited. anti-rape movement.

However, after a meeting with alumni last month, the school ordered its attorneys, GBH Law, to write to students via email defending Eltham College’s protective record and accusing them of “hindering” the ability of the school to properly investigate allegations by failing to do so. provide any detailed evidence.

Hannah Tompkins, the lead organizer of the dossier, told The Guardian: “I was surprised by such an intimidating attack against me when I did my best to assist in the investigation with the sole intention of ensuring that victims are heard and effective change is implemented. .

“I feel that the letter was an attempt to divert us from the school’s failure to fulfill its protection responsibilities and intimidate us into the same silence that we are all trying to break.”

GBH Law wrote back to the students on Thursday stating that the original letter was solely intended to formally clarify the school’s position. “It was not an attempt to intimidate or deflect the perception of failure on their part.”

The allegations at Eltham College, dating primarily from 2016 to the present, are part of a growing recognition of the scale of reports of sexual harassment, abuse and violence that students, primarily girls, suffer both in and out of school.

An Ofsted report on Thursday found it was so “normalized” that pupils didn’t even bother to report it, while the Everyones’s Invited website on June 9 published the names of nearly 3,000 UK schools, including Eltham College, mentioned in the testimonials sent to you.

Eltham College alumni claim their former school did not report the file to local authority and police as required by protection obligations and did not adequately inform parents and students of its contents, which the school disputes.

When it was sent to the Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse by a third party, the students were told that it contained allegations of serious crimes, including sexual offenses committed by children, and that it should be forwarded to the relevant safeguard authorities. Now it has been sent to Bromley’s council and to the police working on Operation Hydrant, who are coordinating investigations into unrecent allegations of child sexual abuse.

The attorneys’ first letter, dated May 27, said that the school’s protection policies had been praised in three previous inspections and that the university had treated the contents of the file “extremely seriously,” taking steps to improve the school reporting system and wellness curriculum.

Soma sara
Soma Sara started the “Everyone’s Invited” website where teens post stories of sexual harassment and abuse. Photograph: Dylan Martinez / Reuters

“Our client has continued to ensure that these issues remain high on his agenda and that he engages with all relevant parties, including referring a safeguard issue to the police, attending a police assessment strategy meeting. section 47 with social services and social support services in the fulfillment of their function “.

He continued: “We understand that our client has been hampered in his continued efforts to assist the police, social services and any relevant body with their investigations and to investigate the issues raised in his file due to the fact that he has not provided detailed evidence. to the school to allow them to investigate.

“Therefore, our client instructs us to formally request that you now comply with the protection advice in force and provide confirmation that you have fulfilled your obligations and duties of care in relation to those who have voluntarily participated by providing information by passing that information to the relevant agencies, including our client, to enable them to fully investigate and address the issues raised. “

The alumni maintain that they have provided as much information as they could, but much of it was provided anonymously. Principal Guy Sanderson said, “We remain very committed to the issues that have been raised and we continue to listen to our current and former students and parents.

“Protection remains our top priority and we want to do everything we can to make our students feel safe and fully supported. We have very strong pastoral procedures and reporting systems in place, and these will be kept under regular review to ensure they remain fully fit for purpose.

“The magnitude of this problem across the country has been further highlighted with the publication of Ofsted’s safeguard report. The type of sexual harassment described has no place either in school or, as the commissioner for children has said, in society in general. “

Earlier this year, alumni of the university, which charges annual fees of nearly £ 19,000 for older students, shared a questionnaire looking for students’ experiences. As in other schools across the country, the survey revealed allegations of misogyny and sexism, indecent images shared online, girls being forced to have sex, sexual harassment and assault on and off campus. school and a culture of silence.

Speaking after the release of the Ofsted report, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Sexual abuse in any form is completely unacceptable. No young person should feel that this is a normal part of their daily life: schools are safe places, not harmful behaviors that are tolerated rather than addressed ”.


www.theguardian.com

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