The independent London newspaper

School needs ‘systemic change’ as pupils compile rape culture dossier

Head 'truly sorry' over handling of student concerns

25 March, 2021 — By Harry Taylor

Highgate School

AN independent investigation has been launched at a private school after a group of pupils claimed there had been a large number of sexual assaults between students and a “rape culture” had formed.

A dossier of 170 testimonies detailing incidents at or relating to Highgate School has been submitted to governors.

It has now been added to with more accounts published online, and details of incidents at several schools across the UK are appearing on a new website called Everyone’s Invited.

The students at Highgate do not claim they have been attacked by teachers and the incidents relate to interaction between teenagers, described as “peer-on-peer violence”.

The school has been accused of having insufficient measures in place to combat the problem, however, and the complaints say that people responsible for assaults have not been punished and that rape was “normal”.

Some of the testimony from girls at the school details incidents where they had been at parties and were drunk and unable to consent. “I have to walk around school seeing the guy who raped me every single day and pretend nothing happened,” said one of the statements.

Headteacher Adam Pettitt, the school’s headteacher, responded to the dossier with an apology for the school’s response and said there needed to be “systematic change”.

“Sexual harassment, abuse, intimidation and violence against girls and women are abhorrent, and we condemn them utterly,” he said.

“The testimonies are devastating and it is clear from the passionate voices of our young people that we haven’t done enough to tackle the issue of peer-on-peer sexual violence and harassment against girls.”

He added: “I want to apologise to the girls and women at Highgate for the ways you have been made to suffer. I am truly sorry. Safeguarding every child in our care continues to be at the heart of what we do as a school. Our commitment to action has to be real and deep. We will be commissioning an independent review of the issues raised in the testimonies following a listening exercise with our pupils, alumni, staff and parents.

“We recognise the urgent need for systemic change.”

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