The Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman has said she was sexually harassed by teenage boys when she was a scholarship student at one of the UK’s top private schools.
The broadcaster said one school boy unzipped his flies, grabbed her hand and forced her to touch his penis. She also described other humiliating experiences in an interview with the Sunday Times.
Newman said she had decided to speak out about her experience at the school following the #MeToo movement and in a bid to try to encourage girls to report bullying and harassment.
She said she was 16 years old and had just joined the prestigious Charterhouse as one of the few girls admitted to the school’s sixth form.
“We were in the lunch hall and a boy sitting next to me unzipped his flies and grabbed my hand and forced me to touch his penis. I didn’t talk to anyone about it [for years],” she said.
“Now we’ve got online abuse and the [concern] about someone taking a naked photo. I think back to that incident. How much worse would it have been if it had been being filmed and put out [online]?”
Another humilating incident happened when she was hosed down with water by sixth-formers when she was wearing a white shirt so that they could see her bra.
She said: “The thing was, I was a girly swot. I did have, you know, protruding teeth, big, thick, horn-rimmed NHS specs, so I was an easy target.”
Her father was a teacher at the school but that made things worse, she said.
“Being the daughter of a teacher made me an easier target. There’s the royalty and the mega-rich [at the school]; I was a master’s daughter,” she said. “Because I was a scholarship kid, I didn’t pay any fees and that again was a point of difference and kids go for that.”
Newman did not want to“appear po-faced” so tried to laugh off the assaults and harassment but her confidence was damaged and she was left wondering whether she was to blame. She said felt humiliated but never reported the incidents.
Newman, who has two daughters, said the first time she told anyone about what happened to her at the school was last year when she spoke to her parents about them.
A statement issued by Charterhouse in response to Newman’s claims said: “The allegations describe events said to have happened some time ago, but they are no less criminal or shocking because of it. Such behaviour has no place in any school.”
Her comments come as the Department for Education’s guidance about how schools should handle sexual abuse come into force this week as the new school year starts.
Newman is one of several high-profile names speaking before the launch of a campaign tomorrow by the anti-bullying charity The Diana Award.