The Women’s Equality Party today criticised the decision by Warwick University to allow students suspended for a decade over rape threats to return after only one year.
Spokesperson on Ending Violence against Women and Girls, Alexia Pepper de Caires, said:
“Decisions such as this signal very clearly to both victims and perpetrators that Warwick University does not take sexual violence seriously. These men used abhorrent language to discuss women that they knew and befriended. They discussed rape as a means of teaching women ‘a lesson’ and used homophobic, racist and ableist language.
“By reducing the length of the expulsions, Warwick University has created a situation in which victims feel ‘terrified’ to return to their studies. This is a complete failure in its duty of care to its students.”
Eleven men were suspended from the university over a group chat in which they used misogynistic and racist language and made explicit and detailed rape threats about specific women. Five of the students were subsequently banned from campus, including two who were excluded for one year and two who received a ten-year ban. However, the ten year bans have now been reduced to one year, meaning four of the five men will be returning to classes in September 2019.
“It is deeply disturbing that these men will return to the university when the women they discussed in such violent and abusive language are still studying. Use of such language betrays true beliefs and is a form of violence. How can women ever feel safe during their studies if the institutions who need to provide a safe environment prioritise the needs of abusive men over the rights of women?” said Pepper de Caires
The incident at Warwick is part of a far larger pattern of harassment and abuse at educational institutions across the UK. Last year a survey by the Student Room found that nearly two thirds of students and graduates had experienced sexual violence while at a UK university. Only 2% of those affected had felt able to report their experiences to their university and many spoke of a culture of ‘normalised’ sexual violence.
Harini Iyengar, WE spokesperson and University Independent Governor & Audit Committee member, said:
“Cases such as this demonstrate how crucial it is that sexual harassment and assault are not treated as irregular and isolated events but as part of a broader culture of misogynistic behaviour which urgently needs to be addressed.
“Handing out leaflets on consent and sexual violence is not enough. Universities should have proper safeguarding practices in place, clear structures for reporting harassment and developed disciplinary procedures to tackle any form of racist, sexist or sexualising behaviour which makes fellow students feel unsafe in their studies.”