‘I have never felt more threatened’: Girls at Warwick speak out against the boys group chat

‘The concept of what is banter and what is inappropriate is very skewed for some boys’

Following the exposure of the Warwick boys group chat, which featured jokes about rape, racism and sexism, many students began to express their feelings of disgust and horror to the story, especially women.

The boys jokes included threats of rape to fellow female students at Warwick, such as “rape the whole flat to teach them all a lesson”, “rape the limbless freak!” and “rape her in the street while everybody watches”.

The eleven boys were temporarily suspended, and four have since had their suspensions lifted.

The Tab approached a number of women at Warwick, asking them to express how the messages in the boys group chat had made them feel.

India-Mae, Finalist, History

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I have never felt more threatened by the possibility of sexual assault or rape before now. I've always felt that Warwick is very safe but it's clear I've been assuming the best of people. I am tired of men upholding a sexist culture which prioritises their sick sense of humour over the safety and wellbeing of women. The kinds of people who should be attending Warwick Anti-Sexism and Anti-Racism events are clearly not going. The onus is on men at Warwick to check each other – you need to hold each other accountable. It can't only be up to women at Warwick (or anywhere) to ensure their own safety. You need to do more.

Charlotte, Final Year

What has astounded me, are the people jumping to say how saddening this event is, as it may impact the students’ future careers. Of course this should decimate their future careers! Whether you like it or not, being at Warwick assigns you a societal privilege and in the absence of this revelation, these horrendous individuals would be entering high powered jobs and have an influence upon how our society is run.

Hannah, First Year, Economics and GSD

When I saw the messages from the group chat I was horrified, but honestly, I was not completely shocked. The messages from the Exeter and Coventry WhatsApp groups had already shown that the concept of what is ‘banter’ and what is inappropriate or harmful is very skewed for some boys.

I’ve heard people defend this issue by saying that it’s their right of expression, but repeatedly making so-called jokes about rape or rape victims undermines the severity of the issue which has the potential to increase the likelihood of acts of sexual violence against women. Regardless of whether it was the boys intention or not, their conversation and any conservation like this has the potential to cause harm.

Yumna, First Year, History

Truly shocking that such smart boys would have such backward and uneducated thinking. For the sake of all women and ethnic minorities justice should prevail. Oh, and I hope they say goodbye to their reputations.

Hannah, Second Year, History of Art

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After reading the article of the exposed group chat conversations it made me feel sad as such disgusting and unthinkable comments are an example of a massive problem within our society.

Also, as part of a liberated society in Warwick I often wouldn’t think twice about the outfits I would normally wear on a night out in the SU where I would feel confident and safe, however, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy and nervous after the scandal, which is a real shame as women shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable over what they wear.

Jemima, First Year, History

The most shocking thing about this scandal is that people are defending it (mostly men too). If you defend the words these grown men have used as simply them exercising their 'freedom of speech', you are being complicit in their misogyny, racism and antisemitism – you are part of the problem. They do not deserve to be at an institution such as Warwick and I hope they are expelled and suffer the consequences of their careless and callous words.

Fiona, First Year, PPE

These boys have been rightfully exposed for their sickening attitudes towards women. They lost any right to privacy when they made graphic threats against specific girls. I cannot believe people are trying to defend their messages as out of context humour – these sorts of jokes reveal a deeply embedded disrespect and hatred for women. Some of the messages are almost written like fucked up sexual fantasies given their level of detail and passion. Context is always necessary but in this case it doesn’t excuse anything.

Phoebe, First Year, Education Studies

Reading the outrageous messages sent between Warwick students has undoubtedly shocked an entire student body, and I felt physically ill when reading through the screenshots. Our campus is somewhere that we are supposed to feel safe and protected, and it’s hard to shake the feeling of unease when reading the language used by some of our own.

Charli, History

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My initial reaction to the release of the screenshots from the group chat was one of shock – and this was before I realised that the boys in question were on my course. The revelation that these boys were in my peer group – that I had shared seminars with some of the individuals rumoured to be involved – left me feeling sick.

What actually shocked me more is how many people I have heard dismiss the screenshots as a "joke" or "lad banter" – what was said in those messages crosses the line. What aggravates me is that I can not help but feel that had there been a threat made of physical violence, rather than sexual violence, the case would have been dealt with much differently – with much harsher punishments dealt.

The university has taken a step in the right direction, but the suspensions of the students in question must be made permanent.

Chloe, Third Year, History

The trivialisation of racist, sexually abusive or simply ignorant ideas is something that I have come across continually here, and while it is in no way the majority, it is a far larger minority than I think we are perhaps willing to recognised. The issue is far broader than a group of 11 men in a group chat, it is also about the culture that continues to pervade that a girl can be laughed at and openly mocked within some societies sports teams or groups of friends for the way she looks, or for challenging someone for touching her inappropriately on a night out.

Amy, Law

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I think it’s easy to blur the distinction between a joke and reality, and for the majority of people, sexual threats and violence is a reality.

When I read the messages, I felt sick to my stomach and unsafe. How could a group of people be so hateful and derogatory? Certainly, before this group chat was revealed I had no problem walking to and from places on campus by myself at night, but now I find myself looking over my shoulder.

For the majority, this was not humour at all, it was sick, degrading and disrespectful hate against females. Just because, to our knowledge, these threats were not acted on does not make it any less serious, offensive or criminal.

These were not just "distasteful jokes" or "male humour" and to insinuate such is demeaning to the good, respectful vast majority of men on our campus.

This is not just a joke, and I don’t see anyone laughing. It is beyond evident these men have a tendency for sexual violence, and the university must stand with its students and its duty to safeguard us and set a precedent. We do not tolerate sexual violence, sexual threats or sexual prejudice at the University of Warwick. Even if the students are not expelled, I should hope the fallout of this ordeal means they are too ashamed to show their faces around the campus.

Holly, Second Year, History

I have found the situation very upsetting knowing that they have been talking about some of my best friends in such an appalling manner but it has really highlighted the evident fact that rape culture and overt misogyny is present in the university environment. I was stunned that people were trying to defend them and sympathising with them and even making jokes like "you think this is bad you should see our group chat". I would feel very uncomfortable with them being on campus.

Hannah, First Year, History

Seeing the things written in that group chat filled me with dread. It is quite terrifying for many girls to know that boys still have these views, especially considering these boys had exec roles and hence positions of influence in societies – these are supposed to be the people we can trust, and especially for first years at university to look up to.

Nasya, First Year, Economics

The discrepancy between women and men is continuing to decrease, yet, we still have comments being shared publicly by young, academic students. How do we respond to this? The worst thing is silence. It is so important that these screenshots have been leaked revealing the identities behind these ‘keyboard warriors.’ Rape is not a joke and should not be made banal. It is a horrific invasion of privacy with long-term psychological effects for victims.

Francesca, First Year, Drama

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It’s frustrating to think that at a modern university, females are still being sexualised. It would be wrong of me to say I feel undoubtedly un-safe on campus, because I think it’s important to remember that a handful of hurtful men are certainly not an accurate representation of the calibre of men at the University of Warwick.

Katie, Second Year

The amount of my guy friends that are sticking up for them has made me feel sick. Some of them defend it as banter and keep saying “girls just don’t have the kind of savage banter as boys you wouldn’t get it", and I just keep wanting to scream at them “yeah and boys don’t have their own rape stories, best friends who have been raped, rape threats aimed at them online from trolls, the very real possibility of being raped hanging over them every time they get a little too drunk or walk home alone”.

As a rape victim myself I know that the guy that raped me was a nasty human being to begin with but I truly believe he would never have felt so entitled to my body if a culture of speaking about women like this did not exist.

Catherine, Second Year, French

I’ve suffered from sexual assault and reading their messages not only literally triggered a flashback but made me feel so incredibly low, so helpless. It just reminded me how casually people see rape and how they have no regard whatsoever for people who go through it. Like this stuff ruins lives, it is not a joke.

Grace

The messages are violent and threatening. As a woman, I’m now more conscious of the ulterior motives of men on nights out. As a result, I’m now less trusting of my male peers who hold these sorts of roles elsewhere. It makes me wonder how common this sort of banter is within male group chats and how rape and sexual assault is still a joke to some people.

Cammy, Second Year, History and GSD

When the whole situation emerged it was definitely saddening and to see that level of disrespect within the messages was shocking. Whilst nothing about the situation is in anyway good, I think it has brought an important topic to the forefront of conversation. It is encouraging that the whole campus has united in condemnation of the messages and that the sexual violence services available and the WeGetConsent campaign are getting a renewed level of attention that they so deserve.

Rosie, Third Year, History

The way these male students, and probably others too, accept these views as ‘jokes’ and ‘freedom of speech’ deeply disturbs me. These words are so offensive to all women at the university and constitute hate speech. What is so worrying is that very often, words or ‘jokes’, can ultimately lead to actions/ behaviour being taken in that direction. If these sorts of views are continually viewed as benign, it will therefore encourage more of a rape culture within university campuses.

Becca, First Year, English Literature

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The long and short of it is that many of us now feel unsafe, myself included. Today, one man told me that "Liberty should always trump safety". This is an example of men dictating social priorities which only benefit and perpetuate rape culture, easily dismissing the severity of the disgusting behaviour of those on that group chat. The reactions of men like these who support the 'freedom of speech' argument (the likes of which are currently sounding off on the internet) has made me realise that there are evidently plenty of individuals who disagree with our right to feel threatened: they value their right to say what they want over our right to feel safe in our place of learning. Frankly, I couldn't be angrier.

Rape cannot be 'joked' about, sexual violence is no laughing matter. The trivialisation of rape culture is what allows this behaviour to be labelled merely as "banter". If one is a decent human being and not sociopathic, one should be able to feel empathy for others no matter their relation to you, their gender, sexual orientation, or racial and cultural ethnicity.

I'm glad these men have been exposed so they can deal with the consequences of their actions. Warwick would do well to put the safety of their students first and ensure that these vile people do not return to campus. Well done to those striving to make Warwick a safer environment.

Ruby

I feel sad. Sad that I wasn't surprised by the chat. Sad that I know that there are similar group chats going on in other societies (especially sports). That boys who went to Warwick thought it could have been their old team mates who wrote those disgusting comments and that they felt sorry for the guys who got caught rather than the girls who got insulted. With games in circles being played called misogyny circle, in which you have to say the most outrageous thing about women you can think of, I think the line of acceptable behaviour has been crossed way before this incident.

Naomi, Fourth Year

When I first heard about the screenshot incident I was totally shaken. I know that a similar situation occurred at Exeter University a few months ago, but to find out that these views were shared by peers at your own university, potentially people you could have been crossing paths with every day was truly unsettling.

Although it is true to say that everybody is entitled to freedom of thought, it was extremely disappointing to discover that people of a similar age and education to you, that have grown up in the modern world under the influence of the media and with a full awareness of the dangers of sexism and racism still made jokes about rape and racism, normalising and dismissing statements as though these issues are of no importance.

Bex, Second Year

I personally think that Warwick aren’t doing enough as a university for the girls who have been especially affected by these messages. Warwick seemingly have tried to hide from the backlash of these messages and the media attention they’re receiving shows how angry people are. Seeing people defend these group chats as ‘shock humour’ or describing the media attention as a ‘witch hunt’ is disturbing that some people are willing to normalise this behaviour.

Steffi

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After those messages I felt a lot of things: disgust, disbelief, anger. But mostly I was fucking terrified. Like really really scared that these boys (because I’m sorry but that’s all they are, boys) are walking around campus and I might have bumped into them or sat next to them on the bus. That these boys go to Warwick and are in positions of power. That something much worse could’ve happened than empty threats.

They need to be expelled, absolutely no doubt in that, but we cannot forget that words like these are spoken every day, the actions they joke about are a reality for women and that these boys may be our vessel for anger right now, but we should focus it on bigger causes and actually making a difference to how this can be stopped altogether.

Nicolette, Second Year, History

I was approached by one of the boys at the beginning of term 2 stating that screenshots of their group chat had been taken, that they might come out and that they contained ‘some bad stuff’. However, what I have read and seen in the media has shocked to the core. I’m deeply hurt and disgusted that people I had once trusted at my most vulnerable times had written and ‘joked’ about these issues, as well as threatening to rape some of our certain friends.

The response of the community has been incredible, yet I am troubled by the jokes made on WarwickLove and WarwickFess that some boys wouldn’t be surprised if their friends were part of a chat like this one. I felt safe at Warwick, and it is true that I felt safe with those in the chat when they were my friends, but now I feel uncomfortable and uneasy about my safety and the safety of my friends.

Sindhu, Second Year, PPE

I think it's disappointing that in so many posts people are still referring to the comments the boys made as rape 'jokes'. It kind of epitomises why these boys were able to get away with what they were saying for so long. I don't think rape and joke can even belong in the same sentence, and regardless of whether people think these boys should have been named or not, I think the amount of people defending them, referring to their horrendously disturbing comments as a 'joke' shows that rape is still not taken as seriously as it should be.

Tiana, First Year, Sociology

As a woman of colour at Warwick I was ridden with fear to know that words as abhorrent as these could ever enter anyone’s mind, let alone be shared with so many with such ease. This language used is demonstrative of criminal behaviour and I feel it is important for everybody to understand the severity of this. All students deserve to feel safe at university – it is our home, yet currently, this is not the case.

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Related stories recommended by this writer:

1. Named and pictured: The Warwick boys who made rape jokes in their group chat

2. Revealed: 11 Warwick students suspended for threatening to rape female Warwick students in group chat

3. ‘She looks like a rape victim’: Here are even more rape threat messages from the Warwick boys group chat

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