Displayed in the windows of the sports hall at James Allen’s Girls’ School in South London is a montage of posters.
Normally, forthcoming events and activities would be publicised here.
But not today.
Instead, covering the front of the building are the testimonies — handwritten in mainly big, pink letters — of young women at the leading private school who say they are victims of ‘predatory’ boys at neighbouring £44,340-a-year Dulwich College.
They make for uncomfortable reading.
‘I SAID NO . . . HE DIDN’T LISTEN, wrote one pupil. ‘WHY DOES ALCOHOL EXCUSE HIS ACTIONS BUT CONDEMNS HERS?,’ asks another.
‘I HAVE BEEN TOLD I WOULD PROBABLY LIKE TO BE RAPED,’ says a third.
Among the claims, including accusations of ‘groping, harassing, assaulting, drugging, coercing, filming, and upskirting,’ is a message for the parents of the privileged elite who attend Dulwich: ‘EDUCATE YOUR SONS.’
‘Incredibly damaging’: Georgina Edwards, left, and right as a schoolgirl at James Allen’s Girls’ School, has spoken of the culture of sexual harassment by boys at Dulwich College
The poster campaign at the sports hall, which is open to the public, highlights, in a very powerful way, the allegations which have engulfed the public school establishment over the past week or so.
The seemingly unstoppable flood of claims, that many of the country’s most gilded educational institutions have become a ‘breeding ground for sexual predators’, is reminiscent of the #MeToo Movement in 2018, which led to film producer Harvey Weinstein’s downfall.
Westminster, St Paul’s, Eton, Latymer, Highgate and King’s College, Wimbledon, have already been ‘named and shamed’ in thousands of anonymous online accounts.
Hardly a day seems to pass without another famous school being added to the growing list of elite educational establishments accused of presiding over what has been widely described as a ‘toxic rape culture’.
And now many boys and their parents are terrified the situation is about to escalate, with news that a small number of Dulwich College boys have been reported to the police by their headmaster after individuals came forward to identify them as ‘abusers’.
Some have already been disciplined, but where there is evidence of potentially criminal behaviour, they have been reported to Scotland Yard by headmaster Dr Joseph Spence who has written to parents to apologise ‘to anyone who has experienced abuse or harassment perpetrated by a pupil of Dulwich College’.
Many of the horror stories posted in open letters and on specially set-up websites are from former pupils.
However, the police investigation and the poster protest at James Allen Girls’ School (Jags), the oldest independent girls’ school in London, bring the allegations very much into the present.
‘I won’t be quiet,’ is the defiant message in one of the windows. Similar slogans are pinned to the school gates. Yet, it is claimed that, until now, many girls have remained silent.
Today, a former Jags pupil has waived their right to anonymity to speak to the Mail about an allegation that they were raped by a ‘DC’ (Dulwich College) boy three years ago when they were 17.
Izzy Myatt, 21, was ‘too ashamed’ to report what happened at the time, saying: ‘I still feel uneasy even driving past the school.’
Another pupil, Georgina Edwards, also 21, told us how she was 14 when she was first asked for naked pictures of herself by an older boy at Dulwich and that a polling app was used to rate girls at Jags, the sister school of Dulwich, under such headings as ‘f***, marry, kill’.
It is this casual, everyday misogyny which seems to have become normalised that is the most shocking aspect of the tsunami of allegations that are now emerging.
Misogyny and the treatment of girls as little more than meat was certainly a recurrent theme during our investigation into the sex culture at British schools (not just private schools but all schools) this week.
The mob mentality alluded to in many of the online accounts, with boys acting in a ‘pack’, brings to mind Lord Of The Flies: the girl who said she had her bra and top taken off by a group of ‘DC’ boys who only gave ‘my clothes back ten minutes later as I cried and screamed’ . . . the girl who was said she was filmed in a vulnerable position at a party without her consent and found the video being shared on social media by DC boys . . . the girls who said DC boys frequently made jokes about rape in their presence.
Others told of being taken advantage of — of being violated — when they were incapacitated with drink, like the girl who said a Dulwich College boy had sex with her when ‘I couldn’t even stand up, my eyes were shut, I fell asleep and was limp.’
The ‘sexting’ phenomenon — the sharing of sexual images, especially among teens — has no doubt made it more difficult for young people to form loving, respectful relationships.
Pop artists such as controversial American rapper Cardi B — who has 86 million Instagram followers — also feed the idea that girls are sexually adventurous and available.
The widespread reports of abuse have left private schools, who are taking the complaints ‘very seriously’, in an invidious position.
In most cases, no names or dates have been provided, so accounts cannot be checked, and many of the ‘incidents’ took place outside school at social events such as parties at weekends.
Nor do we know how recently they are supposed to have occurred. Nevertheless, the sheer weight of numbers, and harrowing detail contained in the testimonies, is impossible to ignore.
So, why now?
The fallout from the death of Sarah Everard, the 33-year-old marketing executive allegedly abducted and killed on her way home from a friend’s house near Clapham Common in South London on March 3, was the catalyst.
If her disappearance and the subsequent arrest of a serving Metropolitan police officer who was charged with her murder was the trigger, the vehicle chosen to expose what many young women had gone through at school was the Instagram page Everyone’s Invited.
The initiative was set up by Soma Sara, a former boarder at Wycombe Abbey in Buckinghamshire, in June last year as a forum to share experiences of rape culture. Within a week she had received 300 anonymous responses.
By March 19, a little over a week after Sarah Everard’s remains had been found, that figure had spiralled to more than 5,000, as Everyone’s Invited went viral.
Only the first nine pages, containing around 900 testimonies, can be accessed on the Everyone’s Invited website.
Roughly half do not identify any school. But where a school is named, the vast majority are private schools.
Latymer Upper School (£20,835 a year) is referenced around 140 times, St Paul’s (£38,990) 40 times, Eton (£42,500), 12 times and Westminster (£41,600), 11 times to name but a few.
The allegations have since snowballed. Dossiers compiled on individual schools, by former pupils in most cases, have been published online.
The ‘Westminster Testimonies’ as they were called, were mirrored at Dulwich, Highgate, and King’s College Wimbledon.
These high-profile schools with pupils from wealthy families have naturally grabbed the headlines.
But common sense tells us that the problem — fuelled by the exposure of children to hardcore pornography with just a click or a swipe and the prevalence of ‘sexting’ — can’t simply be confined to the affluent postcodes of London and the South-East.
‘Everyone’s Invited is a new platform that has grown through word of mouth, with friends sharing it with their friends,’ Soma explains.
‘I went to private school and then a university in London. As a result, we received an abundance of testimonies from certain areas and groups in the first week, so the early data does not represent reality.
‘Another factor in the prominence of certain schools is that when a number of survivors come forward from one particular institution, the others will find the courage to share their stories.’
She revealed that in the past few days alone there had been an influx of reports beyond the initial wave of London-based schools featuring more universities and state and grammar schools across the UK — with a 27 per cent increase in the responses from state schools.
‘This is to be expected as Everyone’s Invited gains more media coverage and our community grows,’ Soma said.
Her organisation this week said it would stop naming schools in testimonies, because of fears certain schools were taking a disproportionate amount of blame.
At the moment, no centralised database on the incidence of sexual harassment in schools exists.
Research presented at the Women and Equalities Select Committee in 2016 showed that 5,500 sexual offences had been recorded in British schools over a three-year period, including 600 rapes, with almost a third of girls (29 per cent) saying they had experienced unwanted sexual touching and nearly three-quarters of all 16- to 18-year-old boys saying they had heard girls being called ‘sluts’ or ‘slags’ on a regular basis.’
So the issues raised by Everyone’s Invited are a problem for all schools.
Nonetheless, taken at face value, the misogynistic behaviour of some pupils at our public schools, described in graphic detail in page after page of online testimonies, is disturbing.
‘Obnoxious’, ‘entitled’ and ‘privileged’ are words which crop up again and again.
‘They’re widely perceived as rich kids who don’t care about the rules because their privilege makes them untouchable,’ is how one girl summed up the public school stereotype.
She was referring to the boys at Dulwich College, whose alumni include PG Wodehouse, Raymond Chandler and Ernest Shackleton.
Georgina Edwards recognises the ‘stereotype’ only too well. When she attended James Allen’s Girls’ school, she socialised with the boys from Dulwich. Everyone at Jags did.
The two schools are part of the same educational foundation after all.
She says comments such as ‘Show some t** please, it’s the only reason anyone likes you’ and ‘Did you f*** her?’ were posted publicly on Facebook and Instagram by male ‘friends’ at Dulwich who then passed off the behaviour as ‘banter’.
‘At school ‘banter’ is one of the most lethal words because it is used to excuse the most heinous acts,’ she said. ‘There was no respect for us women in any way.’
She told how, from the age of 11 (Year 7) up, sexually explicit videos, photos and voice recordings of girls at Jags were shared freely between Dulwich boys.
Georgina was 14 when an older DC boy asked her for a nude photograph. ‘I considered him a close friend,’ she says, ‘but he persistently asked me if I touched myself and how drunk I’d have to be to kiss him.
‘I felt so awkward and days would pass before I replied in an attempt to shut down the conversation. That was the only way I knew how to say no.
‘If you took their advances the ‘wrong’ way, they’d turn it back on you and laugh at you. As soon as we got offended, we were told that we were the ones taking it the ‘wrong’ way.’
By the time she had reached the sixth form, DC boys had started to use a social polling app called Waggle It, which could be accessed by students in the local area.
The app was public and Georgina describes how the boys would ‘pit us girls against one another’, creating polls such as ‘F***, marry, kill, followed by a list of girls’ names, as well as references to ‘gang-banging’ ‘.
Although she was part of a friendship group involving Dulwich College pupils, she says the relationship between them was always fundamentally abusive.
‘They’d mock us for being ‘easy’ and ‘up for anything’, she says, ‘but at the same time that’s all they saw us as.’
On the coach home together from parties and discos, girls were routinely humiliated and would sometimes have ‘ratings out of ten’ yelled at them as they boarded.
Georgina has now graduated from university, is currently dating a former Dulwich College pupil and acknowledges that not every boy at the school participated in the behaviour she describes.
But regardless, she says that such boys were usually ‘bystanders’ in a system that ‘relentlessly targeted’ young girls.
Initially nervous to speak out publicly, she says: ‘I thought my experiences compared to many of the other girls were so minor that they didn’t really count, but now I realise what happened was incredibly damaging.’
Izzy Myatt was at Jags at the same time as Georgina.
A little over three years ago in 2017, Izzy was at a party to which a group of Dulwich boys had been invited.
Towards the end of the night, one of them approached Izzy and said he ‘wanted to chat’.
He told Izzy that some of the boys had a bet going about whether they could ‘f*** you normal’.
It was especially insulting because Izzy had identified as non-binary and had just given a talk on the subject at Dulwich, which caters for more than 1,600 boys, aged between 11 and 18.
Izzy did not wish to go into detail about what happened next.
Suffice to say, the boy ended up forcing himself upon and eventually raping Izzy in the front garden, and laughing as he did it.
Ashamed and confused, Izzy has never spoken about or reported the ordeal, but has been encouraged to speak out in the wake of other testimonies.
The culture at Dulwich, Izzy says, was ‘sexist’ and ‘misogynistic’.
‘The boys passed it off as banter, they just didn’t take it seriously,’ Izzy adds. ‘In my relationships now, I’m always asking myself ‘can I trust this person?’
I haven’t had any interaction with Dulwich College boys since and I feel uneasy even driving past the school.’
Neither Izzy or Georgina reported what happened to them to the police, nor do they intend to. Only now, in the light of the blizzard of complaints, have they even informed their parents.
Ordeal: Izzy Myatt has told of being raped at a party by a Dulwich College pupil
Like Dulwich, James Allen’s Girls’ School said it ‘would be acting upon any disclosures brought to its attention, offering full and unequivocal support to those students who came forward, and reporting to the relevant external authorities where appropriate’ because the safeguarding of pupils ‘is our absolute priority.’
The unfolding scandal has reignited the debate surrounding single-sex schools, particularly all boys’ schools, where critics argue that testosterone-fuelled boys spending most of the time with other boys serves only to fuel aggression.
St Paul’s is also an all-boys establishment. The school proudly sets out its ‘vision and values’ on its website — ‘to provide an outstanding intellectual, spiritual and physical education,’ and in the process, foster ‘respect, tolerance, kindness and service.’
It’s hard to square those high moral principles with the 40 or so testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited website.
A number of them referred to a ‘song’ which was sung down the years at school sporting events, at parties, and in pubs in the vicinity of the campus in Barnes, South-West London.
The chant, popular at one time on the football terraces, is known as the ‘Rangers song’.
It goes like this: ‘I wanna be a St Paul’s ranger, living a life of sex and danger/High-flying, 69-ing/These are the girls I love best, many times I’ve sucked their breasts/F*** her standing, f*** her lying, if she had wings I’d f*** her flying/Now she is dead, but not forgotten, dig her up and f*** her rotten.’
One former pupil said the ‘song’ was sung as recently as 2018. But St Paul’s said it was ‘immediately banned’ six years ago when the school management first became aware of it.’
Either way, the lyrics mirror the alleged behaviour of some boys from St Paul’s detailed on Everyone’s Invited.
One account on the website is from a girl at another London public school who described an ordeal she suffered at the hands of a St Paul’s boy at a party when she was ‘blackout drunk.’
‘The only thing I remember is the boy practically dragging me across the floor by my hands to a dark room,’ she said. ‘Nobody stopped him.’
The girl was 15 at the time.
St Paul’s said ‘it completely condemns the actions described on the [Everyone’s Invited] website and takes this matter extremely seriously.’
All the other schools which have been implicated in the scandal, including Westminster, Eton, Highgate and King’s College in Wimbledon, have all issued similar statements . . . ‘attitudes like these have absolutely no place at our school’ . . . ‘sexual harassment, abuse, intimidation and violence against girls and women are abhorrent and we condemn them utterly’ . . . ‘these behaviours have absolutely no place at our school, or society as a whole.’
Despite a government report in 2016, highlighting the ‘worrying trend’ of young children learning about sex and relationships from online pornography, little if any progress seems to have been made.
The document, produced by the Department of Education said that boys are now surrounded with social and cultural messages that encourage them to act in ‘sexually dominant ways, and to collude with males who do so.’
Clare Davis, a former teacher, school governor, and mother of four, has been leading a national campaign for greater awareness of sexual harassment and assault in schools.
She believes access to graphic and sexually violent online material has desensitised some children.
‘Boys and girls are taught about consent in schools but not necessarily on how to apply it. A boy may think persistence, sometimes to the point of coercion, is acceptable.
‘It’s important to learn about respect and kindness, knowing that taking advantage of someone because they are drunk, afraid or somehow vulnerable is not right.
‘I wish I’d spoken about sex and consent to my children when they were much younger, including possible ways to respond in difficult circumstances,’ said Clare, who runs mental health classes for children.
‘It’s time we opened up these conversations with our children.’
It’s easy to lay all the blame on schools at the centre of this still unfolding scandal. But, as one commentator pointedly, asked: ‘Where are the parents?’
Additional reporting: Tim Stewart