An Oxford student says she was ‘silenced’ by her college after claiming she was raped

‘I’ve lost count of the members of staff who tried to silence me, scare me, threaten me and undermine me’

A student at the University of Oxford says she was silenced by her college after claiming she was raped, The Times reports.

The student was told by bosses at Lady Margaret Hall that she couldn’t say anything about the alleged attack and that “publishing material in the press will result in expulsion” from the college.

Christine Gerrard, the Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, said: “Oxford and many universities do have a problem and we need to pay attention to it. We need to do better.”

The student claims another undergraduate who she was seeing at the time, came into her room when she was sleeping and raped her.

After the incident, the alleged attacker told a friend that “rough sex” explained why he had scratches on his face and neck.

The female student only felt comfortable reporting the incident six months after it happened, eventually telling the college, the university and the police.

At the end of the academic year, her alleged attacker was suspended, only for him to return the next September.

In the same month, the Crown Prosecution service dropped the case, imposing a “non-contact agreement” on both parties.

In January, the following year, Lady Margaret Hall launched its own inquiry, but after seven months the college couldn’t determine if the rape had occurred. The male student categorically denied raping the female student.

Her lawyers claimed that the college’s Principal at the time, Alan Rusbridger, imposed a “blanket gagging clause” on the student, preventing her from speaking out about the incident. At one meeting, the female student said Rusbridger’s “insistent querying” made her cry.

The student launched a legal claim against the college accusing them of negligence, breach of contract, discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The claim was settled earlier this week.

The female student told The Times: “There are no words to describe what Lady Margaret Hall has done to me, nor will it ever be something that I ‘get over’, as I have been told to do by multiple members of staff. I’ve lost count of the members of staff who tried to silence me, scare me, threaten me and undermine me.”

Alan Rusbridger said he was “disappointed” to read a “one-sided account of a distressing and delicate episode at Lady Margaret Hall.”

He added: “Numerous staff and tutors went to great efforts to support and protect a student who alleged she had been attacked by her partner.”

“Both the police and the college mounted thorough investigations into the alleged attack but were unable to determine what had happened to the required burdens of proof.

“The student’s subsequent legal case was met with a response which firmly disputed, denied or rebutted the great majority of claims about the handling of the issue.”

Rusbridger said the allegation the student had been subject to a “gagging order” was untrue.

Following the incident, however, the female student is said to have posted about her experiences on Facebook, clearly identifying the other student involved while a police investigation was ongoing.

“The student was advised of the obvious risks involved in this posting: she apologised and volunteered to delete all her social media accounts,” Rusbridger said.

The Times reports that the female student is one of eight students, past or present, who have written to the newspaper about the college’s poor treatment of cases to do with sexual misconduct.

A spokesperson for Lady Margaret Hall said: “Lady Margaret Hall (LMH) does not comment on individual student cases and cannot respond to points made about individual student cases in the article.”

They said the college “has recognised that there is scope for improvement in our non-academic disciplinary procedures, which includes how the college deals with allegations of sexual assault and harassment.”

“The college is working positively with members of the ‘It Happens Here’ (IHH) campaign (part of the University of Oxford Student Union), to learn from their experience and expertise,” they added.

“In a recent meeting with IHH we agreed to sign a pledge not to use NDAs in sexual harassment and misconduct cases.

“A particular concern in our discussions has been the under-reporting of sexual assaults and we are working to support students to report offences. We recognise that students’ confidence in how their reports will be dealt with is of key importance.”

Featured image: Shutterstock / ReoromART

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