Oxford student says her trauma was trivialised when alleged rapist agreed to

The University of Oxford athlete accused of raping a student was given a one-hour window to shop in Tesco to avoid his alleged victim, in a move she complained had trivilalised her trauma.

The University refused to launch an investigation, saying it was a matter for the police, but instead a senior academic told the alleged victim that, as part of a ‘non-contact’ settlement being put in place, the athlete had agreed to only shop in Tesco for an hour in morning between set times.

The female student told The Telegraph: “It was completely absurd. It seemed to trivialise such a serious issue down to when he could get his shopping at the supermarket. It turned the whole situation into a joke.

“I reported a rape and they said: ‘well we will make sure you don’t see him in the supermarket’. It felt absurd and trivial.”

The agreement was brokered by Professor Sir John Bell, the eminent scientist who advises the Government on Covid, and sits on the Oxford University Women’s Boat Club executive committee.

Sir John had advised the student, who is a member of the boat club, to make her complaint to the police after she alleged she was sexually assaulted in October last year after going to the athlete’s room after a drunken night out.

The woman did not wish to go to the police, but had hoped the university would instead take action. Oxford’s senior proctor however concluded it could not investigate because the allegations were criminal and required a police investigation.

Sir John has insisted he did everything he could to assist the student’s welfare.

In a call with the student on Zoom in December, which she recorded, Sir John told her that the athlete had seen the student in a local Tesco in oxford. 

Sir John told her: “He said he was now anxious of going to Tesco’s because he’s afraid he’ll be pushing his trolley around and you’ll be going the other direction. So I said to him: ‘If we gave you an hour a day to shop, then you won’t run into her because I’ll just tell her to stay out of Tesco.

“So I said: ‘Choose an hour and, at all other times of the day and night, you’ve got to stay out of  Tesco’s’, so he said: ‘OK’.”

Sir John added: “I know that sounds a bit hopeless, but I am trying to get this to work, because there’s no point in us keeping you away from him and then running into him as he’s picking up his beans and tuna at the bloody Tesco.”

The student told Sir John in the meeting that the agreement was ‘helpful’. But she has remained unhappy with how the university has dealt with her complaint and last week, using the platform of the annual Boat Race she went public with details of the alleged assault and her concerns over its handling by the university. 

Her alleged attacker wrote her a letter of apology, a week after the incident in October last year, saying: “I deeply regret hurting you. It was wrong of me to cross that boundary.” He said he was also “going to read more about consent”.

The athlete has strenuously denied committing any criminal offence and the university has insisted there was not sufficient evidence to take action.

A university spokesperson said, “The University of Oxford condemns rape and has strong policies to deal with all forms of sexual violence and harassment. In recent years we have enhanced and invested in both our welfare support and disciplinary systems for students who have experienced sexual violence and harassment. 

We always respond swiftly to any report of sexual violence or harassment, and deal with complaints as quickly as possible. Students are advised on their options and offered a range of support from the University Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service.

We cannot comment on the details of this case, but our disciplinary teams, support services and sports clubs have shown great empathy and concern for student welfare and have taken considerable steps  to provide advice and support, including regular updates, at times on a daily basis.

We continue to work hard to create a culture of mutual respect and understanding of issues around consent. This includes plans to introduce training on these issues for members of our sporting clubs on induction.”

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