A police chief today urged parents who suspect their sons have committed sexual abuse to contact officers after he revealed that police had already received ‘in excess of 7,000’ reports from people online.
Simon Bailey, whose leads the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) on child protection, speculated that the school sex scandal has been fuelled by online pornography and the sexualisation of women.
More than 100 schools have been named in thousands of harrowing anonymous testimonies on a website set up by former private school pupil Soma Sara, 22, to expose misogyny, harassment and assaults in schools.
There have even been allegations of a ‘rape culture’ at some institutions, sparking a major Whitehall investigation into the growing scandal that has seen some of Britain’s most elite schools named in accounts of sex abuse.
Schools named on the Everyone’s Invited website include Eton College, St Paul’s School, Dulwich College, Westminster School and Highgate School.
Today, Mr Bailey said he believed the scandal was a consequence of a culture which made pornography ‘ready and easy’ to access.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the NPCC chief said he did not have ‘any doubt’ that the ‘sexualisation of women’ is a ‘driver’ in the shock disclosure of alleged abuse in schools across the country.
Simon Bailey (pictured), who leads the National Police Chiefs’ Council on child protection, predicted a tsunami of allegations from state and private schools as well as universities
Headmaster of £21,600-per-year Highgate School ‘put PR before the pupils’
The headmaster of £21,600-per-year Highgate School has been accused of putting the school’s ‘image’ ahead of alleged victims of abuse.
Adam Pettitt, who arrived as head teacher at Highgate School in 2006, has driven an ambitious rejuvenation project, turning the London school into one of the most sought-after ‘destination schools’ in the country.
But current and former pupils have accused Mr Pettitt of ‘disregarding and leaving its pupils in the dark’.
Governors at the school have been sent a 230-strong dossier of rape culture allegations which claimed that Highgate ‘silenced’ alleged victims who came forward.
According to the Times, one pupil wrote: ‘This school has become obsessed with its image, making money and its PR, and has disregarded and left its pupils in the dark.’
It also contained a claim an alleged sexual assault victim had been asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement and was told by a staff member to consider ‘how legal ramifications for his [the alleged attacker’s] actions might hurt his feelings’. The school denied those claims to the Times.
A representative for Highgate told the paper: ‘We have never used an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] with a pupil and believe it would be wholly inappropriate to do so.
‘At Highgate, pupil well-being is at the heart of all our thinking. We appointed a director of wellbeing in February 2019, a consultant clinical psychologist working in child and adolescent mental health, who leads a team of counsellors and safeguarding officers.
‘In 2020 we appointed a director of inclusion. Pupils are encouraged to actively engage on community issues and we have several working groups to help steer and drive initiatives across the school.
‘There is clearly more work to do, which is why we’ve commissioned an immediate external review of the issues raised by the pupil testimonies to be led by Dame Anne Rafferty.
‘The review will transparently scrutinise exactly what took place. We are committed to taking whatever action is required to achieve the necessary culture change at Highgate.’
MailOnline has contacted the school for comment.
He warned that ‘a culture has grown over recent years whereby in the minds of some people it is acceptable to treat young women in particular in a manner that we are now seeing’ reported on Everyone’s Invited.
Mr Bailey also suggested that the number of testimonies received are ‘growing exponentially’ and revealed he is anticipating police will see reports of abuse ‘in the university sector, in the state sector and in the private sector’.
Asked how parents should be responding, he told the Today programme: ‘If parents are aware that their son or their daughter has been a victim of abuse, please come forward and report the abuse. Your son or daughter, their account will be believed and we will deal with it appropriately.
‘If as a parent you are aware your son has been responsible for a sexual assault then I think you should again be taking your son to the police and saying, ‘look I’ve now become aware that this is what my son has done”.
When it was put to him if he had concerns that schools had covered up allegations for reputational reasons, Mr Bailey said: ‘I don’t have any evidence for that at the moment, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption.
‘It’s predictable and it’s a reasonable assumption that in some cases, and hopefully it’s just a few, but in some cases schools will have made the decision just to deal with the allegations internally, rather than reporting them when they actually should have done.
‘What I’m anticipating is as there is greater focus on this issue, we’ll start to see reports of abuse, of current abuse, of non-recent abuse, in the university sector, in the state sector and in the private sector as well.
‘It’s not something that’s exclusive only to the private schools.’
He predicted a tsunami of allegations from state and private schools as well as universities, telling the Telegraph: ‘I think that this is the tip of the iceberg.
‘If you look at the number of testimonies that are now being recorded on the site and you look at the fact that it is now being revealed that it is a much broader problem than just the private school sector.
‘I am envisaging referrals coming in from both the private sector, the mainstream state school sector and universities.’
Describing the scale of the investigation, he added: ‘I believe that in excess of 7,000 people have now put testimonies up online and there are lots and lots of victims that will now be thinking about what has happened to them and having conversations with their parents and others about what to do next.’
A national helpline – due to be set up as early as today for victims to report abuse – will lead to thousands of referrals to police forces across the UK, Mr Bailey predicted.
Yesterday Mr Bailey, the Norfolk Police chief constable, revealed he is in talks with the Department for Education and the Home Office about a national police response led by Operation Hydrant, the hub established to coordinate investigations into historic child abuse.
He believes the number of youngsters who come forward could dwarf the Jimmy Savile scandal and even the number of victims in the Football Association abuse probe – which saw more than 2,800 police referrals and 692 young players identified.
He said: ‘I think it is the next big child sexual abuse scandal to hit the country. It will go right across the whole of the education sector – private schools, state schools and universities.’
More than 100 schools have already been named in more than 6,600 harrowing anonymous testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited website, which was set up by former private school pupil Soma Sara (pictured), 22, to expose misogyny, harassment and assaults in schools
Pupil at Bloom’s alma mater is investigated
A private arts school where Orlando Bloom, Helena Bonham Carter and Brooklyn Beckham were educated is the latest to call in police over sex allegations.
Hampstead Fine Arts College, for pupils aged 13 to 19, has asked officers to investigate a claim of sexual misconduct against a male pupil after girls made a number of allegations to staff this month.
The college, where fees are £22,000 a year, has reportedly suspended a boy pending an investigation by the police and school authorities.
The college, which specialises in art, music and drama, has its main site in Belsize Park, north London. A spokesman told the Mail on Sunday: ‘We understand the police are investigating allegations of sexual misconduct off school premises made against a student.
‘The college takes reports of unacceptable behaviour extremely seriously and we have been guided by our safeguarding policy relating to such allegations, involving external agencies as appropriate.’
Other prestigious schools in London to have passed allegations on to police include Latymer Upper, Dulwich College and The London Oratory.
The flurry of allegations against various schools began on the Instagram site Everyone’s Invited.
He said many of the perpetrators may now be at university or in employment.
‘I think we are now going to be faced with very recent and ongoing allegations, there will be non-recent allegations and then there will be allegations that might go back many, many years,’ he added. ‘[To victims] I would say come forward, have the confidence that you will be believed and please report your views because your abuser might still be abusing.’
Mr Bailey, who leads Operation Hydrant, also urged parents to take responsibility yesterday, suggesting some families have failed to keep tabs on teenagers.
‘If you know that your son has been responsible for raping a girl then I think absolutely [the son] should be taken to the police. I think that is being a responsible parent,’ he said.
‘There will be, I’m sure, parents who will get disclosures from their children, who will then say, ‘Right we are going to the local police station’ which is absolutely the right thing to do. What I am keen to do is to ensure that sexual predators that are currently in education are identified and are no longer able to abuse.’
The chief constable blamed the availability of pornography and sexualisation of women for what he believes is a systemic issue in the education system.
He said: ‘I think as a country we have a real societal problem in terms of blurring of the lines of what I think people understand to be healthy relationships and healthy sexual relationships. During lockdown there was a 20 per cent increase in the amount of pornography that was being consumed. I just think it’s been a watering down of acceptable boundaries.
‘I think parents absolutely have a responsibility to ensure that their children have the values that we would all see and recognise as being positive values in a relationship such as trust and respect.’
The police leader also urged schools and governing bodies to ‘look in the mirror’, saying he does not believe that institutions had no idea of what was going on.
He spoke out as a source at the Department for Education suggested schools that fail to meet safeguarding standards for pupils could be forced to shut.
Scotland Yard is now reviewing testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited site to see if any crimes have been committed, ahead of a dedicated helpline being set up in the next 72 hours. Every police force in the country will have to carry out investigations into school sex abuse.
Mr Bailey suggested the Home Office may need to consider extra funding if referrals through Operation Hydrant to police forces rocket.
LORRAINE CANDY: Do you think you know your teenager? It’s time for some tough lessons
By Lorraine Candy
When my teenage daughters first used the phrase ‘rape culture’ I warned them to be careful about deploying such emotive words. As a journalist who has covered several significant rape trials in my career, it jarred with me. Teenagers can be so dramatic, I thought.
The expression came up as we discussed the website Everyone’s Invited, which has come to prominence in recent weeks as a place where young women leave testimonies of sexual harassment, assault and abuse.
But as the conversation continued I felt guilty for underestimating my 17 and 18-year-old girls. As they shared tale after tale of toxic misogyny among teenage boys, it became depressingly clear that neither of them was being dramatic.
From being sent unwanted ‘d*** pics’ which they saw as an everyday hazard, one they and all their friends had endured, to boys secretly filming during sex, boys having sex with drunk girls against their will, boys raping or sexually assaulting girls on nights out, boys groping girls on public transport, in the street, in school corridors and playgrounds, the litany of incidents that had happened to girls they knew seemed endless.
A Whitehall inquiry has been launched into the growing scandal that has seen some of the most elite schools including Eton College, St Paul’s School, Dulwich College, Westminster School and Highgate School named in accounts of sex abuse. Pictured: Pupils and staff protesting outside James Allen’s Girls School in Dulwich
And from what they described, almost any boy at any kind of school could be capable of this behaviour. And if he wasn’t, he would be unlikely to have the courage to call his mates out for it.
‘But why don’t these boys get reported?’ I asked incredulously.
‘There’s no point,’ they replied. ‘The most that happens is the boy gets told off at school but it doesn’t stop them. There’s no punishment, nothing changes, no one cares. They have no respect for girls. Doing this stuff gains them respect.’
Report wolf-whistling, urges top Yard officer
A TOP Scotland Yard officer has urged women to report wolf-whistling to police if it makes them uncomfortable.
Louisa Rolfe, an assistant commissioner at the Met, has promised to take all incidents ‘seriously’, even if the reports do not constitute a crime.
The senior officer encouraged more women to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. She told the Sunday Times: ‘I would urge them to report to us. While every incident might not have a criminal justice outcome, we want to know about patterns of offending.
‘If you said to somebody about wolf-whistling [that they should] report it to police, they might think that’s strange. But, actually, if anything is making you feel frightened or so uncomfortable and upset that you’re adjusting your daily life to avoid it, then let us know.’
It comes after Home Office minister Baroness Williams announced that police forces will record if violent crimes are motivated by misogyny for the first time, in the wake of the killing of Sarah Everard.
From the autumn, forces in England and Wales will record if crimes of violence are motivated by ‘hatred of sex or gender’ in what campaigners say represents the first step towards making misogyny a hate crime.
Assistant Commissioner Rolfe, who leads the force’s strategy on violence against women and girls, has said there is a need to ‘build confidence’ and trust between women and the police.
Until then I had no idea of the scale of the problem, wrongly assuming incidents as severe as those they were describing would be rare in such young teenagers.
Yet, as a number of prominent schools refer pupils to police over allegations and it’s announced that a national helpline and taskforce will be set up to tackle the issue, what is becoming increasingly clear is that a ‘rape culture’ does indeed exist in our schools, both state and private, a culture that until now has been largely ignored by teachers and nurtured by a dangerous lack of awareness or denial among parents of boys.
Which brings me to my 14-year-old son. Alongside protecting and believing my girls, how do I empower and protect him, too? Hearing the girls talk clearly made him uncomfortable and confused. I feel for my daughters, but I also I felt for him, too. It is important we understand that not every boy is involved in the behaviour being reported.
Some boys have already been identified on sites where girls post their experiences – and we cannot know yet what is true and what is not.
That is a fact: however, I think we should believe every girl’s story right now because I know how hard it is to come forward with these accounts in a society that is statistically proven not to believe women’s experiences of crime.
But equally, bringing about meaningful and lasting change will be more complicated than pitting boys’ defences against girls’ accusations; this should not become an anti-male witch-hunt, but be about altering entrenched sexist attitudes towards women and girls to keep them safe.
The first step towards that will involve a dose of honesty and reflection from all parents. We all have to educate ourselves on this situation, no matter how kind or sensitive we believe our sons to be.
When Scotland Yard offers to send experts into schools to talk to boys about consent, and one of the country’s most senior police officers calls this ‘the next big child abuse scandal’, we have to accept the severity of what is going on. And having spent years interviewing experts on teenagers for my parenting book I can tell you that while you may think you know your child, you really don’t.
Indeed in a BBC survey last year 75 per cent of parents didn’t believe their children had seen pornography, yet the majority of their children told researchers that they had.
All teenagers lead a private life parents know nothing about and it is healthy for them to have that independence, but it means you cannot truthfully know your son isn’t part of this problem.
The stories that have come to light in the past few weeks have laid bare a climate in schools that normalises sexist and abusive behaviour towards women. And it’s a climate of fear that also makes it hard for teenage boys to avoid peer pressure and condemn the behaviour of others.
The majority of parents of teens will be over 40, meaning their experience of navigating teenage relationships is outdated.
The environment is different to when we were at school – much less exposure to porn, no social media, no sexting. This means educating ourselves – no more ignoring or avoiding the issue – because it affects all of us.
You need to find out what your sons’ sources of information are online, to find out how their schools are addressing this toxic culture after the news over the past few weeks.
If you only have boys, you need to talk to the mothers of teenage girls whose stories will be different from yours. And yes, you need to talk directly to your sons about sex, consent and relationships, and the earlier you start the better. You might think your children would rather survive on broccoli and cabbage for a year than hear about this from their parents, but family planning experts have told me many times that teens do want to hear about relationships, consent and sex from their parents.
In fact, contrary to popular belief, psychologists I have spoken to say it is a parents’ words and attitudes that hold the most power over shaping a child’s views on sex and relationships.
So IT is up to us to ask our sons, as well as our daughters, about what’s going on, to really listen to them when they tell us, without judgement or criticism, to hear their stories and decide if we need to step in and educate our sons about the issues young girls are facing.
We must encourage the idea that there will now be consequences, legal or otherwise, for any toxic, abusive behaviour.
Our children are growing up in a time like no other, a super-connected world where the stresses on them are huge and complex. It is not enough to assume that schools will take care of sex education. They don’t appear to have done so far.
Teens need guidance and boundaries from curious and open-minded parents to help build resilience.
Being a teenager is tough. It requires enduring five years of rapid physiological and psychological change from 13 to 18 which involves a complete re-wiring of the brain and this means we have to treat all adolescents with care and patience, our own and other people’s. Boy or girl, they need more support from their parents now than at any other time of their young lives.
÷Mum, What’s Wrong With You: 101 things only the mothers of teenage girls know By Lorraine Candy is out on June 10, 4th Estate
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