An unnamed Oxford student politician has been accused of sexually assaulting at least two people following the publication of an OUSU pamphlet last Autumn.
The pamphlet, quoted this week by The Times, contains anonymous accounts from male and female students which describe both sexual assaults the students have experienced, and also a “culture of silence” which prevented them from reporting said experiences.
An anonymous female undergraduate, speaking to The Times, claimed that a ‘student politician’ sexually assaulted her last year. After meeting in a nightclub, he apparently persuaded her to accompany him to his room and then forced himself on her several times, despite her resistance.
The anonymous student explained, “It was one of the more naïve thoughts I’ve ever had, but my thought process was basically: ‘He goes to Oxford, so it must be OK. People from Oxford are fine.”
She had not gone to the police or university authorities as she was afraid that they would think that, “nothing had actually happened”.
This student says that similar allegations were then made by another student, but that they had been “shamed” into withdrawing their accusation.
She told The Times(article behind paywall), “[The alleged attacker] was telling everyone involved that she was a slut, that she was crazy, that she was trying to cover up that she had slept with him.
“It scared me, both in the general sense that I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing more against it, but also in the more personal sense that if I had said anything then no one would have believed me.
The allegations in the pamphlet represent a wider problem within the university in relation to attitudes towards sexual assault.
A Cherwell investigation undertaken in Michaelmas 2013 into sexual violence within the university found that, “Of 107 Oxford students asked, 83% stated that they were unsure or did not know about any options at the University should you wish to report any kind of sexual assault. Only 17% of people said they knew the support available for students who survive sexual assault.”
Sarah Pine, OUSU’s Vice-President for Women, told The Times, “The overriding response is that those in positions of responsibility mediated by the university have had some victim-blaming views.
“When some students have tried to pursue complaints, some colleges have responded very badly – for example, referring students to alcohol awareness courses if they were assaulted when they were drunk.”
The pamphlet quoted is part of OUSU’s ‘It Happens Here’ campaign against sexual harassment within the university. According to OUSU’s website it is, “…a campaign raising awareness of sexual abuse and violence happening here in Oxford and in our University. We educate, we advocate, and we reach out, so here is where we begin to end sexual abuse and violence.”
Students can also read and share anonymous “survivor stories” which are posted on the campaign’s tumblr page. The page says that, “Sexual violence can happen anywhere. It can happen to anyone. And it is happening here to students at the University of Oxford.
“But far too many survivors of sexual violence are silenced. They may never tell their stories or have someone listen. So this is a place for people who have experienced sexual violence while at Oxford to share what they have gone through.”
A spokesperson for the university commented, “Oxford has always taken complaints of harassment very seriously. It has a policy and procedures in place to help students make complaints in all such cases, including sexual harassment and assault.
“While the OUSU publication is now out of date, the university’s culture has always been one of offering comfort and support to victims. We are committed to continually educating our staff and students on how best to offer relevant and sensitive support, working closely with OUSU on this.”