Content Warning: Sexual Assault, Racism
The Exeter University Rugby Football Club have launched an internal investigation following a series of allegations on social media ranging from sexual assault to racial abuse.
Posts on anonymous Facebook platforms Exefess and Confexeter allege numerous instances and serious offences, including sexual assault and harassment outside popular student nightclub Timepiece, as well as racial abuse and xenophobia outside accommodation blocks. Other allegations were made on the private university group Overheard at the University of Exeter, with one post alleging that a group of rugby players scratched her car whilst shouting abuse. Both posts received nearly 1000 reacts each on Facebook.
Keith Fleming, the Director of Rugby at the EURFC, stated in a comment to Exeposé that the “EURFC takes these allegations extremely seriously”.
Fleming also made clear that club management “were unaware of any allegations against any members of the club” up to this point and that, “as yet, nobody has approached the club regarding any of the accusations on Exefess and Confexeter”. However, he emphasised that if they did so “their concerns will be treated with the utmost respect.”
A member of the EUWRFC stated in response to the allegations that “we want to show that we can come together and make a difference” and that “committee discussions are focused on how to make these positive changes.” The club is currently organising a Walking Bus Initiative so members do not need to walk home alone on a night out.
Exeposé reached out to one of the women who made posts on Overheard for details. Alexandra Saidi, a Masters student studying Finance and Management, alleged that she and her friends were followed home from Timepiece in May by a group of rugby players, who then proceeded to harass the group. Saidi explained that following her post on Overheard, the incoming EURFC captain reached out to her to express a sincere apology on behalf of the club.
These allegations of harrassment come amidst wider calls for education providers to address the increasing numbers of sexual harassment cases on-campus.
According to reports, 26.4 per cent of undergraduate females experience sexual assault or rape at university.
Esther Huntington-Whiteley, a spokesperson for Everyone’s Invited, an activist website that shares survivor testimonies with the purpose of “eradicating rape culture”, stated that their “testimonies have been increasing exponentially” in recent months, and that it is “demonstrative of the kind of traction the movement has been gaining and is reflective of the situation at schools and Universities at this exact moment in time”.
The University of Exeter has received the most testimonies of any university from Everyone’s Invited, appearing in 65 of the testimonies thus far, with students lamenting the misogynistic behaviour and rape culture that is seemingly accepted on campus.
A University of Exeter spokesperson said in response to the allegations: “We are appalled to see these posts about alleged sexual and racial abuse on an anonymous online forum. Any form of violence or sexual violence is always a crime.
“We urge anyone who has been the victim of harassment, abuse or assault to come forward to report it so we can take action and provide support. Reports can be made through our Exeter Speaks Out web pages. If you have been affected in any way by sexual violence or harassment or abuse of any kind you can access support and talk to our Wellbeing Team in total confidence and they will guide you through the next steps and get you the support you need.”
“The safety, security and wellbeing of our students is, and always will be, our primary concern and we must continue to support each other and work together to keep all members of our community safe and feeling safe. We are clear to all members of our community that we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, abuse or assault, and that criminal or disciplinary proceedings will be brought against those who commit such offences.”
Further detail about actions the University is taking to prevent sexual violence, assault and abuse:
“We have put in place a wide range of safety and support measures, improved our policies and reporting system and continue to work with students, colleagues and community partners to tackle misogyny and violence against women – this includes a recent special cross-community session on gender safety involving students and staff as well as implementing pilot projects such as physical safety alarms and Safe Zone.
“We have set up a dedicated leadership team to focus on gender safety and oversee actions linked to the Universities UK Taskforce on Violence against Women. Our Gender Safety Taskforce is chaired by the Provost and Registrar and has representatives from student groups, University services and city leaders from organisations such as the police, council and Devon Rape Crisis. The Taskforce will focus on: Values and expectations of being a member of this university; Understanding and acting on consent and respect; Bystander intervention in all its forms; Physical safety in all places where we should be safe; Roles and expectations of student societies; Reporting processes, feeling safe to report, and support; Zero tolerance, disciplinary action and sanctions; Communication and messaging.”
If these issues affect you, you can get in touch with:
University helpline: 0300 555 0225
Samaritans: 116 123
Devon Rape Crisis: 01392 208756
National Rape Crisis: 0808 802 9999
Stop Abuse for Everyone (SAFE): 0303 030 0112