Schoolgirls from Melbourne’s Wesley College are being asked to answer a series of questions relating to their experiences around sexual assault and consent in a petition that encourages them to “name and shame” their attackers.
“Hey everybody, I’ve made a google form to fill out sharing your stories with sexual assault and misogyny at Wesley,” one student wrote on social media after footage leaked of male students from the independent private school making “highly offensive” remarks about women.
The schoolboys were recorded on a bus joking that people “should’ve bombed the women’s march” — a reference to the March 4 Justice rallies around Australia which aimed to put an end to violence and sexual assault against women.
The schoolgirl wrote: “Entries can include your name or can remain anonymous, you can also name and shame the offenders”.
The questionnaire that has been widely circulated among girls at the $35,000-a-year St Kilda campus asks girls whether they’ve experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment or misogyny as well as “year level of offender” and “offender’s name”.
It asks for “any sort of evidence” including “screenshots, recordings, witnesses” but tells those involved “don’t worry if there isn’t any, that doesn’t invalidate what happened”.
A former Northcote High student said on a petition recently that she was “assaulted by two boys from Wesley College” on a train on the way home from school.
“I was squished in between two boys on the train and they were grabbing my bum underneath my skirt,” she wrote.
The student, who was in Year 9 in 2013, said the Wesley students were a few years older than her.
A similar online petition circulated among students in NSW received more than 3000 responses from girls around the country.
A student at Wesley College helping to circulate the petition told news.com.au: “We are currently seeking to increase communication between students and the school”.
But the petition also aims to lift the lid on individual acts of sexual assault, violence and misogyny among the student cohort.
“As Wesley has now recognised these prominent, foul behaviours I really think it will be beneficial for them to hear stories and experiences from our students,” one girl wrote on social media.
“I’m pushing people to add to this and to share the link with friends and peers.”
‘SO MANY GIRLS MAKE ALLEGATIONS’
In a disgusting twist, the Wesley College petition has been seized upon by men who have used it to attack accusers.
In a screenshot shared on social media, one response reads: “I think it’s crazy how many girls make fake rape allegations and nothing happens to them. Food for thought, whilst on the other hand ruins the guys (sic) life. Not saying that the real rapes or sexual assaults are excusable as they are not but some girls need to get there (sic) f***ing heads straight.”
A person who shared the comment on social media wrote: “If these are the responses you are going to leave, rethink. If that is your focus and what you’re angry about over the issue of RAPE then check yourself.”
Another person wrote: “It’s better to believe a liar than believe a f***ing rapist.”
It comes after a TikTok video this week showed Wesley College students talking about the “the most f***ed up thing they have done”. Their responses include explicit and derogatory comments.
A student who was on the bus said he heard boys joking they “should’ve bombed the women’s march”.
Wesley College principal Nicholas Evans acknowledged there had been “disrespectful behaviour of some of our students travelling on public transport” and that their comments were “highly offensive and caused extreme discomfort”.
“I am deeply disappointed to have Wesley students behave in such a manner,” he said in a letter to Wesley parents on Tuesday.
“Such behaviour does not reflect what we value and share in our Wesley community.”
He told an assembly there were “people in this school heard saying words that cannot be unheard”.
“Those who did hear them were rightfully appalled; they were appalled by the lack of humanity, the casual disregard of the lived experience of half the human race,” he said.
“The words said reduced half the human race to a series of epithets, mere labels. In doing so those who uttered them denied their humanity and to deny humanity is to deny any semblance of empathy.”
Mr Evans said the latest incident was upsetting “because this is indicative of behaviour I have witnessed too often from too many men”.
“Casual misogyny and sexism are so often expressed in all male conversations.”
He said senior school staff had recently undertaken an audit of programs dealing with consent and respectful relationships, which covered such topics as sexual consent, pornography and gender-based violence.
— with Ben Graham