YOUNG VOICES

'I Was Raped At Oxford University. The Police Pressured Me Into Dropping Charges', Claims Student

01/09/2014 11:32 BST | Updated 02/09/2014 14:59 BST
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A student who claimed she was raped at Oxford University says she was pressured by local police to drop the charges against her attacker.

The claims appear on an anonymous blog and are made by someone writing under the pseudonym of Maria Marcello. Maria says she was raped after she drank too much and passed out on her bed following a game of poker.

"Yes, my unconsciousness was due to alcohol," Maria wrote on her blog. ".. I have since learnt that I was put to bed, but I don't remember anything. Then a guy I didn't know had sex with me in my sleep.

I have one very clear memory which still haunts me two years later. I remember waking up during the night and seeing him on top of me, my trousers around my ankles and my shirt still on. I pulled away and heard him mutter 'Oh no, it fell out' to himself, at which point I blacked out again. I assume he continued to rape me."

Maria says she reported the assault to the police but was informed her evidence would not stand up in court and was then advised to "drink less in future".

"I told very few people at the time, but a friend came with me to the police station," Maria continued. "The receptionist, on learning I was reporting a sex offence, insisted on me giving details in front of everybody in the waiting room before taking me somewhere private.

"Two officers then came to my house, where I was questioned further. One described rape as as 'just something that happens', especially at university. The only advice I received was to drink less in future."

Speaking to HuffPost UK, the student says she has had a "surprising" number of people who have approached her with similar experiences, and believes it "happens everywhere".

"At the moment I'm just trying to raise awareness of the issue. At the very least, people shouldn't be able to see it as something they can get away with - particularly in cases like mine where the victim is drunk."

The third year says the whole experience of "being separated from my friend and then questioned harshly hours after my rape", was "perhaps as disorientating as it could possibly have been".

"I was given no opportunity to seek advice or regain composure; no chance to sleep on the matter [of whether to press charges]."

According to Maria, her attacker received a minor reprimand and no further repercussions, while Maria received little support from the welfare staff at her college - even though she says she is now followed.

"He seemed to devote his life to making me feel uncomfortable. On nights I was working behind the college bar, he would carefully place himself between me and the exit, sitting there all night. One time when I left a party as soon as he came in he followed me all the way out of college. I ran, and made it halfway back to my house before stopping.

"Despite the number of times I have contacted the welfare officers about this, they have largely ignored me except to say that if he's around I should just leave."

A spokeswoman from Thames Valley Police said: "If a person if unhappy with the service they have received then we would invite them to make an official complaint to our quality of service department. All the details are on the website."

A representative for Oxford University added: "Sexual harassment and violence of any kind is unacceptable at Oxford. When such incidents do occur, our culture is one of strong support for victims, including guidance and advice on making complaints."

For support, contact Rape Crisis on 0808 802 9999.