Warwick Joint Claims – the “rape chat”

Our clients, ‘Jane’ and ‘Susan’, were female undergraduate students at Warwick University, where they were both thriving academically and enjoying university life. In early 2018, Jane was shown a WhatsApp chat group that included some of her male friends. The chat contained highly sexual, anti-female slurs exchanged between the all-male participants. It included video footage of an unidentified female student having sex. Some of the exchanges were also racist. Jane was extremely distressed by what she saw. Susan also became aware of the chat and was similarly distressed.

Both claimants reported the chat to the University. Both were forced to repeat their accounts multiple times to different people, requiring them to repeat traumatic details on numerous occasions. Jane had also been sexually harassed by a member of the chat. The University did not take swift action to protect her. Further, during its investigation into their complaint, University staff failed in three significant respects. First, the University discouraged our clients from working with other women who had been affected by the chat to bring further complaints, leaving our clients to feel isolated and unable to support those other potential complainants emotionally without institutional help. Second, University staff questioned our clients about their sexual history with members of the WhatsApp chat, as if this had any relevance to whether its content broke University regulations. Third, the investigation was structured in such a way as to call into question the independence and impartiality of the investigators.

The University process and the breakdown in trust between our clients and the institution had a significant detrimental effect for both women. Their mental health declined and they ceased enjoying academic work and university life. Both were effectively deprived of the enjoyment of the latter part of their undergraduate degrees. 

Photo of students walking in front of a building at the University of Warwick.
Eleven Warwick undergraduates were part of the group that saw anti-Semitic and sexist comments made, as well as threats about rape.

We acted for both claimants in bringing a claim against the University on the grounds that its handling of the complaint was discriminatory against them on the basis of sex. We reached a settlement that afforded both young women some vindication and enabled them to move on with their lives.