Dark secret at Sydney’s elite schools
More than 500 disturbing stories of alleged sexual assault at some of Sydney's most prestigious private schools - involving several high-profile alleged attackers - have been revealed in a damning collection of testimonies.
Former Kambala student Chanel Contos told news.com.au she created an anonymous online forum, alongside a petition calling for earlier education about consent, after hearing countless stories of sexual assaults through her network of friends while she was growing up.
After posting a poll on social media and calling for testimonies from students and former students, she uncovered a sick culture of normalised sexual assault on a horrific scale at elite Sydney schools.
Several of the women say their alleged attackers are from high-profile families in Sydney's eastern suburbs, and one is now a high-profile investment banker.
A common theme running through the testimonies is that the girls were raped while unconscious or forced to perform oral sex while they were severely intoxicated.
Others said they were pressured to perform non consensual sexual acts, including threesomes, forced alcohol consumption, and waking up to being touched by someone inappropriately.
Students from Scots College, Cranbrook, Sydney Grammar, Waverley College, Kambala, Kincoppal-Rose Bay, Monte Sant Angelo and Pymble Ladies' College are repeatedly mentioned in the testimonies.
One Kambala student said she found out that a Cranbrook boy put his penis in her mouth "as a joke" in front of a group of other boys while she was unconscious.
In another chilling testimony, a girl from Kambala wrote about an incident in 2014: "I had a few drinks and was dancing by myself and he approached me and took me to a room and eventually he pushed my head down and forced me to perform oral sex on him, I was unwilling and refused but he kept on pushing my head down.
"I was only saved when my mum called to say she was outside to pick me up. I didn't tell anyone for a very long time and only told my brother a month ago."
A student at Willoughby Girls High School wrote of her experiences of being raped at a party in 2019.
"He and I started hooking up, then he started taking things further and I begged him to stop but things escalated and he raped me. It then happened again later with another guy at the same party.
"The same thing happened again at a Halloween party and I blame myself for it every day. Unfortunately it continued with this boy for three months until I was put into the hospital."
A former Ascham student described an incident in 2015.
"I was blackout drunk at a party when I was 16 and the next day woke up with no memory. Days later rumours start circling that I had a threesome with two Scots boys," she said.
"With no memory, I couldn't even defend myself while groups of Scots boys called me a sl*t and sent me anonymous hate messages on social media, one going as far to say I should kill myself. I now realise that even if it did happen, I couldn't have consented."
One former Loreto student said they had woken "up the next day completely naked" after blacking out drunk.
"I found out that morning that his friend had filmed him performing oral sex on me while I was barely conscious," they said.
The respondent says the video was shown to multiple private school boys.
"I still don't know if that's all that happened between him and I that night, but I have a feeling he had sex with me," the woman explained.
"To add to it, the boy who filmed it was one of my very best male friends."
Ms Contos - who is now living in London - told news.com.au that reading the hundreds of testimonies had taken a "heavy emotional toll" on her, but she wasn't entirely shocked by what she uncovered.
"This is just scraping the surface, I know there's more," she said. "These experiences stay with us, it doesn't go away and it's not fair that it's going to happen to thousands more girls."
She said the aim of the petition was to push for better education around sex and consent in high schools across Australia.
"This isn't just something that's happening in Sydney private schools, it's much bigger" she said.
She said Kambala provided her with "life changing" education on consent for the first time in year 10.
"However, it happened too late and came with the tough realisation that among my friends, almost half of us had already been raped or sexually assaulted by boys from neighbouring schools," she said.
She began the petition - calling for holistic sexuality education earlier in the curriculum - last week, and it was created in response to what began as an informal Instagram poll. The Instagram poll posed a simple question:
"If you live in Sydney: have you or has anyone close to you ever experienced sexual assault from someone who went to an all boys school?"
In less than 24 hours, the poll has received 1200 views, almost 300 responses, with 72 per cent of people saying yes.
When asked, "If you went to an all boys school: do you think any of your friends have ever sexually assaulted someone?" 55 per cent of boys responded with 'yes'.
Now, she says the movement is gaining momentum. She is in talks with MPs and has plans to launch a website very soon.
The petition has also been sent to the principals of some of the schools mentioned in the testimonies, with a powerful message.
"The majority of signatories to this petition will have long since graduated from your schools. Most are now at university or in their early years of the workforce with their high school days only a distant memory," Ms Contos said.
"Yet, they are advocating for younger generations to receive an education that they were either deprived of or received far too late. This highlights the long lasting impacts that sexual assault at a young age leaves not just on the victim, but their friends and the wider community.
"Those who have signed this petition have done so because they are sad and angry that they did not receive an adequate education regarding what amounts to sexual assault and what to do when it happens.
"These are uncomfortable conversations to have with young teenagers but it is far more uncomfortable to live knowing that something happened to you, or a friend, or perhaps that you were even the perpetrator of it, and it could have been avoided."
News.com.au has reached out to all of the schools repeatedly mentioned in the testimonies for comment.
So far, only Waverley College has responded.
"Waverley College abhors abuse, and any student who commits abuse deserves the fullest consequences for their actions. And anyone who covers
up abuse is guilty of allowing sickening behaviour to go unaddressed, and they too should face consequences," principal, Mr Graham Leddie said in a statement.
"Our focus is not only to ensure a safe environment for students, but for students to learn
that they are responsible as individuals to always create safe environments for others.
"A culture of respect must be instilled in boys from their earliest days at home, and reinforced
throughout their schooling. Every person has the right to feel safe."
Meanwhile, the Principal of The Scots College Dr Ian Lambert addressed the allegations in an email to parents and staff.
"I am deeply saddened that these young women have experienced such trauma and have had to resort to this public call for help," Dr Lambert wrote. "It is a wake up call for us all. They are to be commended for their bravery in standing up and speaking out.
"The College, in partnership with students and families, will continue to offer support and be an integral part of the solution.
"Currently at The Scots College, the issue of safe and respectful relationships is taught as part of the PDHPE and Christian Studies curriculum in the Senior School from Year 7. Consent is specifically addressed in the Year 8 and Year 10 curriculum. In the Junior and early years, a similar age relevant approach is in place. The Year 6 Amazing Me program is being modified for educational programs from Cubs and Lions through to the end of Preparatory School.
"Both at home and at school the Scots community must encourage open communication about the values and type of behaviour that is acceptable and not acceptable. Consistent, regular and open discussion is very important."
Originally published as Dark secret at Sydney's elite schools