Rape Chat Scandal That Rocked Warwick University (Documentary) BBC Stories


“I hate women.
“I’m having an official month
of disrespect.”
And I just remember reading that,
and seeing all of our names listed.
NEWSCASTERS: BBC Newsbeat.
#ShameOnYouWarwick.
New revelations about the
Warwick University online rape case.
Having seen such horrific
content like that,
I don’t understand how the
university were willing to let
these people return to campus.
The pure, unadulterated misogyny
that ran through that,
I would never class as “banter”.
CHANTING
People start to worry about
the reputation of the university.
People going on radio,
tweeting, saying,
“I’m not sending my daughter there.”
“My son is not going to go there
in September.”
People start to panic.
I don’t feel like I could
say to a parent,
“Your daughter should come to our
university,” when they won’t be
guaranteed their safety.
It’s right here. Didn’t say
anything that’s actually a threat?
This is it, if that’s what you need!
One of them sent me
a message saying like,
“You can’t let these screenshots
get out, because there’s gonna be
“severe consequences for all of us”.
I was so happy – I remember I cried
in happiness when I got my results,
cos I was going to –
I always wanted to go to Warwick.
It was my first choice,
and I was really, really excited.
On A Level results day, many
students join group chats
on platforms like Facebook
Messenger and WhatsApp.
Joining a chat group is really
important, because it gives you
that sense of not being alone
when you’re starting university.
Once you’ve actually met each other,
you then get your friendship
groups forming.
We’d all mess around in the library
together, get lunch together
all the time – just, like, 99% of
the time, they were just your normal
university guys.
Just always the life and soul
of every event.
They use to speak about it in front
of us, they used to tell us, like,
anecdotes from what they’d been
talking about in their lads chat.
I’d sometimes ask, like,
“Oh, are you going to let us see
“what you guys chat about us”?
And they’re like, “Oh, you won’t
care – it’s just a football chat”.
Anna was close friends with
one of the members
of the lads chat group.
We went on holidays together.
He’s come to my family home
at Christmas time.
Yeah, we were very close.
We were sat in my apartment,
and he had his laptop out,
and he kept getting all of these
messages through from this other
mixed group chat.
Obviously I could see them
popping through,
and they were…not nice messages.
And he just laughed at me and said,
“Well, if you think that’s bad,
“you might want to see
our lads chat”.
Yeah, he then proceeded to show me
the lads group chat,
as if he were showing off.
As if it was something
that he should have been proud of,
and that I was going to be impressed
by how vulgar and horrendous it was.
That’s when he took me through…
..a year-and-a-half worth
of rape threats.
“I swear to God, if it’s that girl
in my flat,
“I’m going to go all 1945 advancing
Soviet army on her
“and rape her in the street
whilst everybody watches.”
“Rape her and run.”
“I think I would have disabled her.”
“Ha-ha-ha – knock her out,
the stupid slut.”
I was just taking pictures
of the screen, as he was scrolling.
He sat next to me
while I was doing it.
I just told him that it was
for my own peace of mind,
and he said it was OK.
I noticed that a lot of the
conversation that was surrounding
me and my friends was about rape –
and gang rape,
and genital mutilation.
So, I searched my own name – it was
coming up, like, hundreds of times.
I think that he could see me getting
more upset and more upset.
And I think that’s when it started
to dawn on him that this was
probably a lot more serious than
he thought it was.
He then offered to stay over
at Anna’s flat.
He said this was
to make sure she was OK.
I think he thought while he was
staying in close proximity with me,
that he could kind of…
monitor my movements,
and manipulate me into thinking
that it wasn’t that bad.
“It’s just a joke – you don’t
understand, this is how boys talk.”
“I can’t afford johnnies at the
moment – you may as well just
“rape her and dash,
then it will be cheaper.”
I get a phone call from her saying,
“You have to come over.
“We found something that you need
to – you need to get here now.”
We’d sat there for about probably an
hour at least, just looking through
all of the screenshots of…
these disgusting messages.
One of the boys said,
“Which girl at uni would you like
to pin down the most”?
I just remember reading that
and seeing all of our names listed.
I…
It was one of – it was a really,
really difficult thing to read,
because these are men who you’ve put
in such a position of trust…
..and you hold in such high regard.
But they make a game out of raping
and sexually assaulting you.
The despicableness of what some
people tried to class as banter,
that I would never class as banter –
you know, the pure, unadulterated
misogyny that ran through that.
The threats that were being made
were sickening.
ANNA: Yeah, they were talking about
drugging people on nights out.
And there was a particular
conversation where they were talking
about how one of them had drugged
another female student.
The university would later decide
that one sexually explicit video
shared in the chat needed to be
handed to the police.
West Midlands sent specialist
officers to investigate the chat,
but told the BBC…
If you’re making something so
normalised to talk about,
such as rape, you are creating
an environment in which
you’re telling them that that’s OK.
While the women mentioned in the
messages were deciding what to do,
word about the lads chat
was already spreading.
ANNA: More and more girls started to
find out through various means,
what was going on.
Someone pulled us to one side
and they said,
“Oh, by the way, guys,
there’s this story happening,
“There’s a group chat
involving some students.
“You might want to take a
look at it.”
ANNA: The more that people
started to talk about it,
the angrier that the men got…
..that this was starting
to come out.
One of them, who I was especially
close with actually, sent me
a message saying, like, “You can’t
let these screenshots get out,
“because there’s gonna be severe
consequences for all of us.
“No-one else can see this.”
I didn’t know what to do, because
these people were a huge part of
my life, and I didn’t want to
lose my friends,
It was giving me a lot of anxiety,
and panic attacks.
And that’s when I decided that
I was going to have to complain,
cos otherwise, I couldn’t
go back to university.
I felt like I should’ve said
something, and I was so happy that
someone was doing something,
at least.
So, whilst I didn’t put
a complaint forward –
in the end, I wrote a statement.
All universities have
a student complaints system.
These allow students to report
offences that break university
rules and codes of conduct.
They’ve got a Dignity in Warwick
policy that addresses the issue
of social networking.
I’m not sure, to be honest,
how many students have actually read
this document – often they’re
hidden deep in the bowels of
the university website.
On the 25th of April, 2018,
Anna and another woman
discussed in the chat
submitted a formal complaint.
Two days later,
at 10:09pm on a Friday,
Anna received an e-mail from
a man called Peter Dunn.
That victim needs time to digest,
time to understand,
and time to get the appropriate
support herself,
to help her through that process.
If you receive something that
completely shocks you, and you’re
without support across the weekend,
and you’re about to face it
early next week,
what’s the likely impact of that?
I mean, quite frankly, they’re lucky
the individual didn’t just say,
“I’ve had enough”.
The e-mail also revealed
that Peter Dunn’s main job
was as the University of Warwick’s
Director of Press.
So, I want to make a comment…
His responsibilities include
issuing press releases,
dealing with the media, and looking
after Warwick’s reputation as one of
the top universities in the UK.
Well, we knew there was a link
with the press office,
as soon as we got the documents –
and that was a problem.
You can imagine a situation where
the press officer thinks,
“Well, I think the just thing to do
would be to do this.
“But if I put my press officer
hat on, that won’t look good –
“in terms of their perception, and
the reputation of the university”.
And in order to avoid that risk,
my view is that it would’ve been
prudent and wise to pick somebody
who didn’t have these two
potentially conflicting hats.
As the investigation got under way,
11 men involved in the chat were
suspended from campus,
pending Peter Dunn’s inquiries.
Yes, it’s up.
Yeah, I’m doing – I’m doing it.
Meanwhile, The Warwick Boar –
the university’s student newspaper –
managed to get hold of screenshots
of the chat and information
about the investigation.
Everyone was on board,
and we clicked “publish”.
And that moment, I remember vividly.
And then, looking at the page views
on the website,
just seeing it blow up completely.
As media interest in the story
increased, Peter Dunn’s role as both
investigating officer and
Director of Press started to concern
the two women who had complained.
When the first news stories
started to break,
we were told that he would delegate
his press role to other members
of the press team, while he was
working on this investigation.
But e-mails seen by the BBC suggest
Peter Dunn was still continuing
in his press role.
It was a very surreal experience
for us to be receiving
draft press statements
and investigatory notes from
the same person.
Throughout the disciplinary process,
the university has defended
its decision to appoint Peter Dunn
as the investigating officer,
and denied he had
a conflict of interest.
ANNA: I was just going with
94 pages of evidence,
and hoping that they could help me,
because I didn’t know what to do.
Having been called for interview
late on a Friday night,
Anna arrived on campus
on the following Tuesday morning
to meet Peter Dunn.
He was very accusatory
from the beginning,
in the way that he was
questioning us.
And we were told straight away
that our stories didn’t line up,
which was – I was very scared.
I remember coming
out of that meeting crying.
I mean, I find this all the time,
that students are invited to
hearings or interviews –
whether it’s something like this,
or they’ve been accused of cheating,
or something like that –
and they are completely shocked
at what happens in the interview.
They’re just not – they didn’t
expect that level of scrutiny,
or even aggression, and so on.
He went through it one-by-one, and
asked me if I had any sexual
relations with any of them.
He made me go through every single
page, and he asked me,
“How did that make you feel”?
And the things that he was
talking me through –
and he was asking me to repeat
were very, very, very…
..violent rape threats
against me and my friends.
The BBC has seen the interview notes
taken from the meetings between
Peter Dunn and the two women.
“Anna was asked about the reference
to her and BLEEP in Prague.
“Anna said they were not
in a relationship at the time.
“Anna thought that the chat that
said, ‘rape the whole flat,
” ‘teach them a lesson’
referred to…
“Anna thought that ‘rape the
limbless freak’ referred to…
“Anna said that the quote,
‘Mate, the first time you fuck her’
“is a reference to…”
It’s plain that if you are going to
have an investigator go down a
particular line, when you’re asking
about sexual history and so on,
that they’re adequately trained
to deal with these issues,
and to ask these questions
sensitively and compassionately.
I think you need to ask in a way
that absolutely conveys belief.
And preferably having a gender
that the individual chooses,
as the investigating officer.
We asked the University of Warwick
for information on any training
Peter Dunn had received,
But they refused to provide any
details, saying it would be
a breach of his privacy.
I started to feel like I was
under investigation,
and that I was being put on trial
for coming forward about this.
Peter Dunn would later put
in writing that Anna’s account
of events revealed…
I…I’m not aware of why you would
say, “You’re not a credible
witness.”
You will not remember exact times
and dates necessarily, you know?
So much depends on
how traumatised you’ve been
by what’s happened to you.
Anna was never provided with the
full evidence as to why Peter Dunn
felt this was the case.
The university has told the BBC…
Honestly, at the start of this,
I really did have a lot of trust in
my university that they’d be able
to deal with it properly.
And that was completely,
completely broken down,
at every single point.
Like, every single time
I thought it couldn’t get worse,
it would get worse.
After Peter Dunn had interviewed
the women, he then interviewed
each of the 11 men mentioned
in the complaint.
These interviews lead
to a new discovery.
One of the men accidentally revealed
that after the chat had been
shut down, a second group
was set up.
The new chat was called….
Peter Dunn felt that these
messages revealed, in stark detail,
some of the men’s lack of remorse.
This became a key part of the report
he then compiled on the case.
In that report, Peter Dunn gave his
recommendations for how each man
should be disciplined.
Out of the 11 men, he found that two
had not done anything wrong.
Three more were deemed to have
committed
minor disciplinary offences.
Examples of minor offences at
Warwick University include ignoring
no-smoking areas, and bringing
shopping trolleys onto campus.
The two women at the heart
of the complaint brought this up
when they confronted one
high-ranking university official
about the disciplinary process.
So, why is it being considered the
same as bringing a shopping trolley
from Tesco onto campus?
You have done, officially!
You’re saying it’s minor!
You have officially done that.
BLEEP is the one that made this
threatening by showing it to me.
He made that an active threat
by showing me that someone
wanted to rape me.
It’s right here! Didn’t say
anything that’s actually a threat?
This is it, if that’s what you need!
This left six more men.
Peter Dunn recommended that they
had all committed
major disciplinary offences.
That meant that they would have to
appear before a disciplinary panel.
These are made up of
university staff, academics,
and student representatives.
One of them was Hope Worsdale,
then-student union president.
We are literally just kind
of sent an e-mail saying,
“This is being convened on this day
at this time.
“We need you to nominate
two representatives.”
And so, it’s kind of,
first and foremost,
“Who is actually available to
be able to do this?”
Hope sat on the first day
of the panel.
We were just in a room in the main,
kind of, like, university building,
in a sort of round table.
People just kind of sat all
around it, basically.
And yeah, I think it’s, it’s an
incredibly tense situation to be in,
because that is, you know…
certainly the first time for me
that I was directly communicating
with anyone that had been, you know,
kind of accused within this case.
One at a time, the men would appear
before the panel, give a statement,
and then, respond to questions.
Is there kind of a genuine sense
of remorse for what’s happened?
Is there a genuine understanding
for why this is so severe?
They know what the charges are
against them, and therefore,
the severity of them –
they know what the potential range
of penalties is that could be kind
of applied to them, and they –
I imagine they probably had an idea
that it would come towards
the more, sort of, severe end.
It took two days
to question all the men.
At which point, the panel
agreed on a range of punishments.
It was kind of tiring, but I think,
also came out of it, feeling like,
you know, “We’ve done what we need
to do”, basically.
And that these are, kind of –
this is a range of penalties,
including some incredibly –
or, sort of, the harshest
penalties you can get.
In June 2018, the university
announced the results
of the disciplinary hearing.
One of the men was banned from
the university for life.
Two of the men received
bans of ten years.
Two were banned for one year,
and the sixth man’s case was
deemed “not proven”.
We were never told the outcomes
of the disciplinary procedure.
I found out when the press
found out.
Some people were satisfied.
I remember some people saying
the university had
handled it quite well.
They’d taken a tough stance.
There’s always a constant anxiety
and constant fear that you
don’t know when you’re going
to see these people.
Obviously there was still anger
that this had happened
in the first place, and that kind of
stuff could happen at Warwick.
But I think there was a sense of,
“OK…” Putting it to bed, almost.
The women knew the men would have
the chance to appeal against
their punishments, and the two who
received ten-year bans
decided to do so.
Four months passed before the women
heard the outcome of those appeals.
Something the university partly put
down to a staff member
taking a late summer holiday.
It’s a horrendous process to go
through, and for it to be
so elongated would be really
insensitive and inappropriate.
I also think that, you know,
it’s a question of priority, for me.
You know, if you prioritise
something, then you get it done
in a timely fashion.
The result of the appeal saw
the two men have their ten-year bans
reduced to just one year.
We heard about the outcome
of the appeals
before the actual complainants.
And that’s a recurring theme
throughout the whole of this story –
we hear things before they do.
I was never given an explanation.
We were told that new evidence
had come to light,
and that’s why the sentence had been
reduced from ten years to one.
But I don’t know
what the new evidence is.
This meant the two men would be
returning in 2019,
when some of the girls affected
by the chat, like Nicole,
would still be studying at
the university.
No-one in the administration,
or the people dealing with the case,
ever contacted me about this.
Back then, no, I didn’t feel like
I was being heard.
I didn’t want to go back, I was
in the middle of a year abroad,
finally a world away from this
nightmare that had completely ruined
my second year of university for me,
completely destroyed my
friendship group,
and had left me with anxiety…
I didn’t want to come back to that.
The appeals panel had been
made up of academics and student
representatives with no prior
connections to the case.
This meant that those that gave
the original punishments,
like Hope Worsdale,
weren’t included.
I just felt very confused…
very frustrated.
People have been expelled – like,
the harshest possible punishment,
in some cases, which reflects the
severity of the situation.
Obviously, yeah, then that was
essentially undone.
The university has been
very…not transparent about,
kind of, like, the reasons why.
The university has said
the new sentences…
By Christmas 2018,
the university had confirmed
that they had officially
closed the investigation.
At the start of term in 2019,
the outcome of the appeals was
beginning to spread around campus.
ANNA: One of the girls that was
involved, she’d found out that
the appeals had gone through,
and she…
..decided to take to Twitter
and put some of the screenshots up.
When I used the hashtag
#ShameOnYouWarwick initially,
I thought, “This is showing that
Warwick, you will not be able
“to get away with this –
we will not be ignored.”
That’s the kind of moment that…
..it all blew up and got
the attention that it deserved.
And it became a bigger story
than the original story.
NEWSCAST: BBC Newsbeat.
#ShameOnYouWarwick.
New revelations about the
Warwick University online rape case.
Now, in the last few moments,
we’ve got a response from
Warwick University.
They’ve apologised that their
processes have distressed
so many people.
It wasn’t just students
who were critical of
the university’s decision –
many staff at Warwick felt the same.
I sent out a, an irate tweet,
in which I said I will not promote
the university at UCAS events,
I will not encourage students
to come to the this university,
when they won’t be
guaranteed their safety.
We started to have all of this
support that I’d never been provided
by my university, I’d never had
anyone to talk to about it.
And now, suddenly, I had thousands
of people giving me support from
across
the country, which was lovely.
SHE CHUCKLES
I wanted this hashtag and all the
attention to take…
..the very system that was gonna
allow these men back on campus –
I wanted that to bring
that system down.
It was shame.
I think the #ShameOnYouWarwick
hashtag was absolutely accurate.
I was ashamed to be part of a
university that would so quickly
abandon the victims in a
case like this.
Whereas the first story we broke
in May, the anger was directed…
..AT the nature of the group chat.
This time around, the anger was
fully directed at the university –
at their decisions, at how the
disciplinary process,
according to some people,
has failed.
CROWD CHANTING
CROWD LAUGHING
Departments at the university
were distancing themselves
from management at the university.
Originally, the English Department
put out a letter to say
they disagreed with what
had happened.
And then, that started snowballing.
CROWD CHEERS
I was on the march with
the students.
It was very much a positive vibe
of wanting to enact real
positive change, and wanting to
support those people who have been
let down in this situation.
This university has failed
in its duty of care –
not only to me, but to every
survivor of sexual violence
that walks around on this campus!
To every student that has ever…
CROWD CHEERS
Two days before the protest,
Stuart Croft, the Vice Chancellor,
announced that the two men
who’d had their sentences reduced
would no longer be returning
to the university.
They themselves have said,
as I understand it,
that they will not take up their
places at the university.
There’s nothing to prevent them
changing their mind.
If you speak to basically
any student –
particularly any female student –
they will be able to tell you
the types of things that they
experience on a daily, weekly,
monthly basis at university,
that definitely feed in to this,
kind of, issue of rape culture –
whether it’s words,
or whether it’s actual actions.
It’s the biggest story about Warwick
in recent history.
Erm, it kind of puts
a cloud over the university.
It’s on their Wikipedia page now,
so it’s there for good.
At the time, Warwick released a
statement saying it was deeply sorry
and understood the distress
that this had caused
the victims of this abuse.
It then announced an independent
review of disciplinary procedures.
When the BBC approached
the university during the making
of this film, it said…
They absolutely are…
..speaking out their support of
a zero-tolerance
around sexual misconduct.
How you then get that
zero-tolerance into action –
that will be what we have
to judge by.
It may be that one of the silver
linings of this case in Warwick
is that universities will
suddenly realise…
..the importance of doing a
professional job, when it comes to
investigations and hearings,
and appeals.
While the Warwick group chat
is the most high-profile case,
it’s not the only one.
In the last year, students at
Loughborough, Exeter, Bournemouth,
and Sheffield have been
investigated, suspended,
or expelled
in similar cases.
And during the making of this film,
another case was exposed at Warwick.
We are seeing far more women and
girls stepping forward and going,
“We will not tolerate this” –
and they’re being supported
by their male peers.
I see movement now that I haven’t
seen over the last 40 years,
and it feels timely.
So, I don’t think any university,
any institution,
can afford to get this wrong.
It’s not acceptable to have an
amateurish system when –
day in, day out – there are students
out there who are the victims of
injustice at university hearings,
and their lives, and their careers
are being affected by poor decisions
taken by university appeal panels.
It’s had such an impact on me
as a person.
It’s had such an impact
on the wider student community,
and I’m sure it’s had an
impact on them.
But I don’t understand what
it was all for.
So, I just –
I just want to know why.
We were completely objectified
and sexualised to the point where
it was almost a ranking system of
which girl was more
desirable to rape.
And having these guys who were also
my best friends, at the hands of
that,
was a really, really hurtful
thing to see.
And it still gets to me,
it still does.
All right. Is that…was that…?
That’s perfect. OK.

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