An explosive new website names hundreds of Australian schools where students say there’s a disturbing problem.
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Chanel Contos speaks with TODAY after her petition to change consent education in schools went viral.
Thousands of students from across every part of Australia have spoken out about a chilling culture of normalised rape and sexual assault – as pressure grows for systemic change.
Since being overwhelmed by the response to her petition – calling for earlier and more holistic sexual education lessons – Sydneysider Chanel Contos has received more than 4000 testimonies from students in South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland, the ACT and NSW.
Overnight, she launched a website where the disturbing accounts are beginning to be made public for the first time.
There are already more than 1500 testimonies on the website – and many of them bear eerie similarities to the vile stories that emerged from Sydney schoolsshortly after the petition first went live.
In many of the freshly-uploaded accounts, students say they were raped while unconscious at parties or woke up to being touched by someone inappropriately.
MELBOURNE SCHOOLS MENTIONED
Many of the new testimonies come from Melbourne schools, where students say there is a similar culture to the chauvinistic club-like mentality reported in some Sydney all-boys schools in the initial testimonies.
One former student at Carey Grammar School said she was 16 and at a party when she smoked her first joint and passed out on a bed.
“I thought I’d be safe as the host went to my school,” she said, recounting the incident in 2012. “Instead he came in and got into bed with me.”
She said the boy then started digitally penetrating her, and wouldn’t stop even though she repeatedly asked him to.
She said a friend of the boy entered the room and “joined in” – before spreading rumours around the school about the victim’s body.
“When I told my ex boyfriend a few years later he told me I asked for it and shouldn’t have laid down,” she said. “There’s so much wrong to this story.”
In another testimony, a former Firbank Grammar School student said she and her mates were invited to a “massive party of about 500 people” when she was in year 9.
“It was one of my first experiences drinking a lot and I was vomiting at the back of the party and going in and out of consciousness,” she said. “I don’t remember anything but the next day I found an Instagram picture of me passed out next to my vomit with a guy I don’t know with his hands up my dress.”
She said the St Kevin’s College student’s friends took pictures and posted them online.
“I reported the photo every day for a long time before it was removed and it still terrifies me that lots of people I don’t know have that photo,” she said. “I also don’t know what else was done to me that night because I don’t remember.”
‘RAPE CULTURE’ BEING EXPOSED
The disturbing accounts are just some of hundreds that have been uploaded overnight, and Ms Contos told news.com.au that thousands more will be uploaded soon.
“I’m really excited that this is reaching different states because once these stories start coming out in other parts of the country, I think we will see the same response we’ve seen in NSW,” she said.
“The more people that come forward, the more it will help the cause and it will expose the rape culture in our society.”
Private Sydney schools in particular were mentioned time and time again in the initial testimonies, and Ms Contos said she was already seeing positive signs that schools and MPs in the city were taking the petition seriously.
She is meeting with several headmasters in the schools mentioned tomorrow as well as Liberal MP for Wentworth Dave Sharma – who has thrown his support behind the campaign.
“As the response to this petition makes clear, we’ve all got to do better in educating our children, at home and in our schools,” Mr Sharma said.
PARENTS PULL STUDENTS OUT OF PRIVATE SCHOOLS
As the pressure grows for systemic change, it’s clear some parents aren’t willing to wait.
Some of those who sent their boys to Sydney private schools mentioned in the petition have spoken out, and some have reportedly sent their children to other schools.
One father of a year 9 student at Kings School in Parramatta told the Sun-Heraldelite schools cultivated a culture of entitlement and privilege, which he said leads to a lack of “sensitivity” towards others.
“They teach these kids they’re the best, they’re the chosen ones, they’re going to run Australia, they’re going to conquer the world,” he said.
The parent said he chose the private school for his son to give him a better chance, but worried he and his wife would struggle to teach the child to be empathetic towards others.
News.com.au has contacted the school for comment.
MELBOURNE SCHOOLS RESPOND
Meanwhile, Melbourne schools mentioned in the new testimonies have expressed their concern.
The body representing some of Melbourne’s most prestigious Catholic schools – including St Kevin’s College, Parade College, St Mary’s College, St Joseph’s College and St Bernard’s College – said the petition had pushed them to take action and signalled they would work with parents to address the issue.
“The powerful testimonies provided by the many young women in the online petition are disturbing and are an indictment on societal decency,” said Edmund Rice Education Australia executive director Dr Craig Wattam.
“All of us – schools, families, and the broader community – must carefully consider and revisit issues pertaining to sex education.
“More specifically, sexual consent education is required for both young men and women and we need to be providing this education in early adolescence.”
News.com.au has also reached out to Carey Grammar School for comment.
To sign the petition, visit Ms Contos’ new website