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Groped, harassed, hounded: Wesley College misogyny crisis widens

While at the school’s regional campus at Clunes, “I was in my student house and a group of 12 male students proceeded to come into our house area and began to slut shame me by making derogatory comments and disregard my request for them to leave.”

Another said: ”My experience is that I have been groped multiple times on school grounds, one of which was witnessed by a teacher who empathised with me but didn’t do anything about it.

“I can’t wait in line for lunch without someone grabbing my butt. I can’t walk through school without passing people that have raped, sexually assaulted and or sexually harassed me or one of my friends.”

‘I can’t wait in line for lunch without someone grabbing my butt.’

Another wrote: “Moving to Wesley from my old school I did not expect boys of all ages having files on their phones of inappropriate photos of girls in our grade alongside other ages, which were either sent to them or they had taken on their own account, of others, without their knowing.

“They would share these images between their friends and brag about who’s got a better ‘chick bagged’. ”

Mr Evans said it was clear the college had “an enormous amount of work to do with regards to respectful relationships amongst students”. He added as well as “encouraging the reporting of any incidents, we have established a range of initiatives designed to allow students to share their views on the culture of college.

“This is only the first of a range of measures to address this very serious issue within the school.”

Crowds at the Melbourne March 4 Justice on Monday protested sexual assault and harassment.

Crowds at the Melbourne March 4 Justice on Monday protested sexual assault and harassment.Credit:Eddie Jim

The issue of sexism and harassment at Wesley – and of girls from other independent schools whose students have contacted The Age – arose on Monday after boys in Wesley uniform were heard making loud misogynistic comments following the Melbourne women’s March 4 Justice.

A student from another school emailed Mr Evans to say he was disgusted by what he heard and said women on the bus were so distressed by the comments they disembarked immediately.

One father of a Wesley student contacted The Age on Wednesday and said his son “and the vast majority of his male cohort are very upset and disappointed” that the bus incident occurred, and endorsed the school’s action this week.

He said his son had “in the past been abused and physically assaulted by boys from another school as a result of standing up against mistreatment of his female friends. He came home with a black-eye from one such incident.” His son and friends had also stepped in when female friends were experiencing disrespect online.

Some students from Wesley College boycotted the uniform in protest at handling of allegations of misogyny.

Some students from Wesley College boycotted the uniform in protest at handling of allegations of misogyny.Credit:Paul Jeffers

“He is generally very frustrated that a small number of his peers are bringing disrepute to his school community and Wesley boys in general,” he said.

Speaking on ABC radio on Thursday morning, Mr Evans said the issues that had emerged this week were a far wider problem than the college, and that “Wesley College is Australia in microcosm”.

He said it was “striking that independent schools were prevalent in this discussion” and that pornography had to be a huge part of the discussion.

On Wednesday Mr Evans also condemned a TikTok video in which students identified as being from the school were filmed making sexually explicit and derogatory remarks about girls. They were not in uniform at the time.

In a second assembly on Thursday to tackle the issues, the school went to lengths to reassure students that it was dedicated to listening to girls’ stories and acting quickly to assess the culture and introduce change.

St Kilda Road campus head Kim Bence made a heartfelt speech on the topic of misogyny saying she would “work day and night to gather the information, the insights and experiences as led by you to effect positive change on this campus. It’s time.”

However one senior girl said she did not believe it was worth reporting assault at the school.

“I have been assaulted by somebody at Wesley but never came forward and told teachers because I do know that other students have come forward.

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“The boys who do it do get suspended, but then they don’t get educated on what they did wrong.”

The Herald Sun reported on Thursday that students had started an online petition to share stories about assault, harassment or misogyny at school.

The college was among 35 mainly independent schools in Melbourne whose students added testimonies of assault to a national petition calling for better teaching of consent education, which was started by PhD student Chanel Contos this month.

If you or anyone you know needs support call the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence hotline on 1800 737 732

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