The founder of a website flooded with pupils’ allegations of sexual harassment has said the scandal should not focus on ‘naming and shaming’ specific schools.
Soma Sara instead railed against an endemic rape culture that permeates ‘every school, every university, at home and in society’.
Almost 10,000 people have anonymously posted experiences of misogyny and abuse on the Everyone’s Invited website, sparking a reckoning that has been likened to the MeToo movement.
Harassment claims against pupils at high-profile private schools such as Dulwich College first brought the problem to public attention.
Ms Sara today urged campaigners against singling out individual institutions because it fails to tackle entrenched societal behavior.
She told Good Morning Britain: ‘I think rape culture is a universal problem it exists everywhere; in all schools, all universities, at home and in society. So the question of responsibility is on everyone.
‘I don’t think this is about naming, or shaming or pointing the finger at a place, person or institution. It’s about everyone participating in these conversations. It’s so important we continue having them.
‘It’s about addressing and changing those sexist attitudes that are so deeply entrenched in society.’
While top public schools were the first to be engulfed in the scandal, Ms Sara has said the number of complaints from state schools has increased by a third.
Ministers are under growing pressure to confront the deepening scandal by launching an independent inquiry.
Gavin Williamson last night condemned the alleged abuses and vowed to take action to stamp out such ‘sickening’ behaviour.
Soma Sara instead railed against an endemic rape culture that permeates ‘every school, every university, at home and in society’
Ms Sara said the experiences being recounted were ‘shocking and harrowing’ but was pleased such problems were being shared.
Recalling the impetus for establishing Everyone’s Invited, she said: ‘Back in June 2020, after having many conversations with friends and realising just how many of us had had experiences with rape culture and sexual violence throughout our teenage years that we hadn’t really shared with each other or hidden from adults.
‘I decided to share my experiences on Instagram, and I was overwhelmed with responses from friends, old friends and complete strangers, who were all reaching out to me to emphasise that they really resonated with everything I was saying about rape culture.
‘And when I say rape culture I’m talking about when things that aren’t normal are normalised. So things like sexual harassment, misogyny, the sharing of intimate photos or upskirting.
‘When these are normalised, these can be a gateway to more serious criminal acts such as rape and sexual assault. So it’s about addressing a culture that trivialises and normalises these behaviours.’
Gavin Williamson vowed last night to take action over the pupil abuse scandal – and urged all victims of ‘sickening acts’ to report them to police
Robert Halfon, Tory chairman of the education select committee, said there was a ‘Lord Of The Flies culture’ within schools and that counselling should be given to victims of sexual violence.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘It is pretty grim just reading through the Everyone’s Invited website, your heart goes out to all the people who have suffered the abuse, the sexual harassment, the threats, the abuse online.
‘I do think there is a Lord Of The Flies culture in some of our schools across our country and what needs to happen is an urgent inquiry to overhaul safeguarding procedures because they are not fit for purpose.
‘The schools involved should immediately implement a system of providing counselling for students past and present as well… so they can get all the support they need.’
Speaking on the same programme, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said there was a ‘duty for parents to make sure that their children are keeping the law’.
He agreed that ‘unacceptable behaviour’ was ‘deeply to do with the culture and we all have a responsibility.’
‘Not just in Government but also as parents and as teachers and also members of the community to make sure that people treat each other with respect’.
But Labour’s Jess Philips said the Government has known about problems with sexual violence in schools for years and that being ‘shocked and appalled’ is not good enough.
The shadow domestic violence and safeguarding minister told BBC Breakfast: ‘We put this very firmly on the shoulders of victims to sort out what the government should have been sorting out.’