Oxford student union removes editor who said alleged rape victim lied

Oxford University’s Student Union has “removed” the editor of student paper, the Oxford Student, on Wednesday evening, after she wrote an article which labelled an alleged rape victim a “conquest collector” with “a reputation”.

The article, a version of which is still on the Telegraph website, was written by Amelia Hamer after Ben Sullivan, president of the Oxford Union, was accused of rape, but not charged.

The piece, which has since been removed from the union-funded student site, used the headline “Sullivan’s alleged rape victim knew her claims to be false”. Students were angry because they felt the article suggested the alleged victim should be seen as less credible because she “had a reputation” for being promiscuous.

Oxford University has so far declined to comment, but the student union has issued a message on its website that says: “The board lost confidence in her because of her handling of an article published (briefly) on the Oxford Student website on 29 June 2014. Ms Hamer is entitled to appeal the decision to OUSU Council.”

In an email to her editorial team, and published by student paper Cherwell, Hamer has responded to the accusations and her dismissal: “I’ve been called all manner of things over the past three months - rape apologist, slut shamer, victim blamer. I can assure you that I am none of these things. What I am is someone who cares about the truth.”

She said: “The copy was far from perfect, but it was not illegal and did not break the PCC’s editor’s code of conduct.”

The news of her removal comes after the National Union of Students (NUS) called on universities to take firmer action to tackle attitudes towards sexual violence at university. Its research has shown that over a third of female students have suffered unwelcome advances in the form of inappropriate groping and touching.

In a bid to tackle the problem, new intakes of students at 20 Oxford colleges and at colleges at Cambridge University will have to undertake compulsory sexual consent classes. Oxford University has also said that it will be drawing up a more rigorous university-wide harassment policy.

Caitlin Tickell, committee member of feminist campaign group WomCam, says: “It is right that Amelia Hamer has been sacked for the horrendous article written last term, which peddled rape myth after rape myth, and may well have compromised the anonymity of the women mentioned.

“The decision to sack Hamer sends out a very positive message that victim blaming and slut shaming are not acceptable and that the university community will not stand for it. It is vital that we work towards making safe spaces for victims of sexual assault and this action is a step in the right direction.

“I hope that all student journalists will think about how they report on issues of sexual violence.”

Concerns about lad culture and attitudes towards sexual harassment at university have grown over recent months. The small communities in which students live and study are thought to make the issue of reporting and anonymity particularly difficult.

Oxford University has come under recent criticism for its treatment of issues surrounding sexual violence, after an Oxford student using the pseudonym Maria Marcello wrote a blog in which she claimed that her university ignored her requests for help after she had been raped.

When Hamer’s article was first published in June, the Oxford student union responded by offering to pay for Hamer to go on a media law training course.

Students who felt this response was not strong enough set up an online petition – which has been signed by over 300 people, including students from both the Labour and Liberal Democrat societies – calling for a full apology and resignation.

Siobhan Fenton, a recent English literature graduate of Oxford University, who set up the petition, says: “People were disgusted with the attitudes expressed within the article.

She praised the action taken against Hamer, saying it shows that the union “is taking this sort of thing seriously and tackling the sort of myths that contribute towards rape culture and slut shaming”.

The NUS has said that it will be launching a pilot scheme, offering “I ❤ consent” programmes for 20 further and higher education institutions.

An NUS spokesperson says: “Our research shows that sexual harassment is rife on campus, but we still we keep hearing from universities that there is no fear, no intimidation and no problem.

“Nobody should feel diminished, disrespected or unsafe on campus, and it is vital that behaviours resulting in this are challenged. Student unions and universities must work together to create campuses that are welcoming, safe and supportive to all.”

(Source: TheGuardian)


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