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Lady Margaret Hall Criticised for Mishandling Sexual Assault Allegations

Content warning: rape, sexual assault

A former student at Lady Margaret Hall (LMH) has spoken out about the college’s mishandling of her sexual assault allegations. While LMH has not accepted liability for negligence in a court case settled this week, ex-Principal Alan Rusbridger has been criticised for failing to provide the victim with adequate support.

After the student claimed to have been raped by another undergraduate, Rusbridger is said to have “reduced her to tears” with his “insistent querying”. 

LMH’s investigation was then turned aside, with Rusbridger saying that the college and police “were unable to determine what had happened to the required burdens of proof.”

Following the incident, the alleged perpetrator is said to have explained scratches on his face as the result of “rough sex” with a third party, and criminal charges against him were dropped.

The victim then pursued a legal case against LMH, stating that the college had imposed a “blanket gagging order” by telling her not to post about the incident on social media. She also claims to have been warned in writing that “publishing material in the press will result in expulsion from Lady Margaret Hall”. 

Rusbridger responded to the publication of this story in The Times on Friday 1st April, saying that “it is disappointing to read such a one-sided account of a distressing and delicate episode at Lady Margaret Hall.” He proceeded to give his own account of the rape case, stressing repeatedly that the victim and alleged perpetrator were “in a relationship”. 

A section of Alan Rusbridger’s Facebook post, which he subsequently deleted.

When students replied to say this was unhelpful, Rusbridger removed their comments and deleted the post.

Alice Garnett, a recent graduate who studied at LMH, told The Blue that Rusbridger directly messaged her after her comments were deleted. She said: “I think it’s pretty dumb (as well as grim and infuriating) that he whinged about the so-called “one sidedness” of The Times story only to delete comments criticising him.”

Comments from Alice Garnett, a recent LMH graduate, which Rusbridger deleted.

Rusbridger eventually stopped communicating with Alice, saying he was in New York in a different time zone. He also gave this response when The Blue approached him for comment later in the day.

Rusbridger’s final response after instigating a direct-message exchange.

Back on UK time, meanwhile, Michelle Donelan MP took to Twitter, saying “The use of NDAs to silence victims is morally bankrupt… @lmhoxford should be ashamed.”

Tweet from Michelle Donelan MP

It Happens Here (IHH), the Oxford SU campaign against sexual assault, also responded, stating that it “condemns the mishandling of a report of violent rape at LMH, where several senior staff members acted maliciously to silence the reporting student.”

A spokesperson from LMH finally said that the college would work closely and positively with members of the student campaign, “to learn from their experience and expertise.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article and would like to seek support, please reach out to any of the following: 

It Happens Here: https://www.ithappenshere.co.uk/need-support

Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre: https://www.osarcc.org.uk/

University of Oxford Sexual Assault Support Service: https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/welfare/supportservice