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Warwick rape chat student ‘devastated’ as uni defends decision

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Media captionThe student says she feels her experience has been for nothing

A student threatened with rape by men in an online chat has told the BBC her university’s investigation into the threats made her feel like she was “on trial”.

Five male students were banned from the University of Warwick last year, after details of the chat emerged.

Several students in the chat encouraged others to rape women on campus.

Warwick University said it “stands by the investigation process.”

Jennifer – not her real name – spoke out after the BBC reported on Thursday that two of the students, initially banned for 10 years, had their punishments reduced after an appeal.

They will return to classes this year.

Jennifer said this left her “devastated” and that all of her “traumatic experiences” had been “for nothing”.

“These people are still going to be back and they’re still going to dangerous … and Warwick University are allowing that to happen.”

The Facebook group chat was first reported last summer by Warwick student newspaper The Boar.

‘Very aggressive’

Jennifer said: “There were a lot of threats of gang rape.

“One of them spoke about wanting to gang rape me and then after they discarded my body they wanted to ejaculate all over it.

“They talked about my friend, they wanted to genitally mutilate her.”

Other posts included a racially offensive term and anti-Semitic language.

Image copyright The Boar
Image caption Student newspapers obtained the screenshots after complaints were made to the university

After Jennifer and another student officially complained to the university, both were interviewed as part of the subsequent investigation.

“We were made to feel the entire time that we had to justify why we were upset,” she said.

“It was very aggressive questioning. It was as if we were on trial.

“We were given a list of male individuals involved, and we were taken through it one by one and asked our sexual history with each of them – which obviously was really traumatic. Not having anyone really there to represent me.

“I didn’t know if I was supposed to be answering these kind of questions and it was really upsetting.”

‘Conflict of interest’

The university’s director of press, whose job it is to promote the university and protect its reputation, was appointed as the official investigator.

Jennifer said that this was a “clear conflict of interest”.

A spokesman from the University of Warwick admitted there was a “potential for conflict”.

But he said: “During the length of the investigation media relations were delegated to other members of the press and media relations team. “

He added: “All those who were interviewed as part of the investigation were asked about whether there were prior or existing relationships with those also involved.

“The detail of any relationship was neither questioned or explored.”

On Thursday, Prof Christine Ennew, a member of the executive team at Warwick University, said the university was sorry the decision to allow the students back early had “upset so many members of our own community and beyond”.

She added the penalties were intended to allow the complainants time to finish their studies before the disciplined students were given the opportunity to return.

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