UK

Warwick students suspended over rape threats allowed to return early

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Media captionA woman discussed in a group chat by Warwick university students says she's terrified two of them will be back

Two students banned from the University of Warwick for 10 years for their involvement in a group chat that threatened rape will be allowed to return later this year, it has emerged.

One woman who was targeted said she felt "terrified at the prospect of having these boys in my seminars".

Several of those in the chat encouraged others to rape specific students.

The university said it had reduced the length of their bans to one year after they appealed.

In a letter, seen by the BBC, a university official apologised to the women for not informing them of the appeal's outcome sooner - citing "my delayed summer break".

One of the two women who received the letter, in October last year, said she was talking about it now because she wanted to highlight what she describes as "horrendous" treatment by the university.

Image copyright Getty Images

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

One of the messages said: "Sometimes it's fun to just go wild and rape 100 girls."

While another said: "Rape the whole flat to teach them all [a] lesson."

Another post included a racially offensive term and anti-Semitic language.

At one point, a user wrote: "Rape her in the street while everybody watches," with another responding it "wouldn't even be unfair".

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

After a disciplinary investigation by the university, five students were suspended.

Two were banned for 10 years - and have now had that reduced to one year, two were excluded for one year, and one was given a lifetime campus ban.

This means four out of the five of the men initially suspended will rejoin classes in September 2019.

'Humiliated, as if for sport'

In an open letter to the university, one of the female students targeted in the chat said: "We were discussed so violently.

"We were humiliated, as if for sport. These boys were my friends - like my brothers. And they destroyed me.

"You expect us to return from semesters abroad and study alongside these men?

"It is a source of shame for past, present and future Warwick alumni that you lack the courage to stand by us."

Prof Christine Ennew, a member of the executive team at Warwick University, said in a statement that the university was clear the behaviour was "abhorrent and unacceptable" and it was sorry the decision had "upset so many members of our own community and beyond".

Privacy issues meant they were unable to comment on specific details, she said, but the appeals panel had decided "the punishments imposed should be comparable across all of those individuals sanctioned".

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

The sanctions also came with "future behavioural restrictions" and conditions designed to "enable them to learn from their past unacceptable behaviours".

Liam Jackson, the president of Warwick Students' Union, said the union would continue to push for a review of the university disciplinary procedure.

Students from the university have taken to Twitter to voice their anger at the university's decision using the hashtag #ShameOnYouWarwick.