Student paper editor removed over article about alleged rape victim

The editor of a University of Oxford student newspaper has been sacked over an article that critics claimed “slut shamed” an alleged rape victim.

September 25, 2014

Amelia Hamer has been removed as editor of the Oxford Student, according to a statement posted online by its board.

It said the board of Oxford Student Services Limited, which includes the Oxford University Student Union president and vice-presidents, had “lost confidence in her because of her handling of an article published (briefly) on the Oxford Student website on 29 June 2014”.

The article – a version of which was published by the Daily Telegraph and still remains online – centres on one of the two women who accused Ben Sullivan, the president of the Oxford Union at the time, of rape.

Mr Sullivan was arrested over the alleged assaults in January and April last year, but was not charged with any criminal offence.

He has maintained that both relationships were consensual, calling the allegations “poisonous” and stating that the six-week police investigation was a “nightmare” ordeal. The episode reignited the public debate over whether the media should name those arrested on suspicion of sexual offences before they are charged.

The Oxford Student article, which was published a week after police decided not the pursue criminal charges – but later removed, reported that emails between Sullivan and one of his accusers after the alleged assault “proved the relationship was consensual”.

In the correspondence, the alleged victim is said to have told Sullivan how she “feel[s] so, so guilty about cheating” on her boyfriend with him.

However, the article also stated how the alleged victim is “believed to have boasted of sleeping with ‘union hacks’ who regularly feature in Oxford’s three student newspapers” because she wanted to become a “conquest collector”.

That “conjecture” amounted to “victim blaming”, according to critics who mounted a campaign for Ms Hamer’s removal.

“To try to discredit rape allegations on the grounds that a woman has been previously promiscuous is both shameful and wrong of the OxStu,” said Siobhan Fenton, who led the campaign.

“The statement…attempts to legitimise the sickening belief that sexually active women cannot be raped under the twisted logic that if a woman consents to sexual acts sometimes, she consents to them all the time,” she added.

In an email to her editorial team, quoted by the student newspaper Cherwell, Ms Hamer has called her sacking “unjust”, adding that “the OxStu as a legitimate, independent publication is dead”.

“I’ve been called all manner of things over the past three months - ‘rape apologist’, ‘slut shamer’, ‘victim blamer’. I can assure you that I am none of these things. What I am is someone who cares about the truth,” she is quoted as saying.

The story had been published “not because we were attempting to ‘shame’ a supposed rape victim or support Ben Sullivan, but because the information was in the public interest. There is little point to a newspaper if not to reveal information that people have a right to know,” she adds.

She continues: “The copy was far from perfect, but it was not illegal and did not break the PCC’s Editor’s Code of Conduct”, adding that the paper’s legal advisors had advised against making a public apology on the matter.

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