Oxford

Somerville College principal warns of sexual harassment

Somerville College Image copyright Somerville College
Image caption Somerville was founded in 1879 to give women the chance to benefit from an Oxford education

The principal of an Oxford University college is tackling a rise in "excessively harassing and intimidating behaviour" towards female students.

Alice Prochaska of Somerville College said issues in recent months included groping at parties, sexual innuendo and jokes being made about rape.

She encouraged victims to speak out about any incidents, carried out by a "small minority" of male students.

She has emailed students to warn that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

'Bullying and intimidation'

Speaking on BBC Radio Oxford, Dr Prochaska said: "I'd heard growing numbers of reports of unacceptable behaviour of various sorts.

"Not just sexual harassment but a bit of bullying and intimidation and a growth of a climate that was making people feel uncomfortable in the college.

"It seemed to me if we got people to speak out about it now, then that would stop it in its tracks."

Dr Prochaska's comments follow an open letter published by Oxford University undergraduate Ione Wells to her sex attacker following an assault in London.

Somerville College's Junior Common Room student body made a donation of £200 to the Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre in response to the principal's email.

The college, which Margaret Thatcher attended, was women-only until 1994.

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