‘He followed me everywhere, grabbed me by the neck, choked me, and then proceeded to put his hands down my pants.’
Nine years after being assaulted, Zan Moon speaks calmly about her sexual assault, allegedly by an Eton student. It wasn’t until after the tragic murder of Sarah Everard last month, which sparked a national conversation about women’s safety, that Moon felt compelled to share her story.
The 24-year-old, who is a former student at the private girls boarding school Benenden in Kent, recently shared her experience of assault on Instagram and put a call out asking whether others had suffered anything similar from students from two fee-paying British schools, Eton and Tonbridge. Moon was expecting a handful of replies but what ensued was a tidal wave of allegations, 14 pages in fact.
'I just couldn’t ignore it,' she says over the phone on a lunch break from her day job at the Prince’s Trust charity.
Moon sent the dossier of abuse with 95 testimonies along with an open letter to headteachers of the alleged schools, stating that the 'chauvinism' which 'runs deep inside the UK's private boys schools' needs to 'end now'.
Moon's letter follows the initiative Everyone's Invited, an Instagram account which was set up 10 months ago — now with 42,000 followers — cataloguing rape culture in British schools. Young women share their experiences on the platform in the hope to end the stigma of discussing sexual abuse and rape, which many say is rife in schools.
There are concerns over how the anonymous allegations can be verified on the account, but in a culture where sexual violence is so often stigmatised and rape rarely spoken of, giving a platform to survivors is necessary.
Following her open letter and the messages from alleged survivors she'd received, Moon set up an Instagram page @screengrabthem on April 1 to expose apparent screenshots of online harassment, misogyny and coercion that women experience daily. With her posts, she tags the various schools allegedly involved in the claims.
‘We literally have photographic evidence here that can't be ignored and I hope the page will act as a deterrent for boys’, Moon says.
After the #MeToo movement, Instagram accounts exposing allegations of rape and sexual assault have become commonplace.
Last year, there was the anonymous Instagram account (@standrewssurvivors) featuring students' allegations of sexual assault at the University of St Andrews, which prompted the university to encourage students who have 'experienced sexual misconduct to report details to the University or to the Police', reports The Independent. And a few weeks ago actor Jodie Turner-Smith launched the account @sexismonsetuk, which shares anonymous allegations of sexual harassment, assault and everyday sexism experienced on UK film and TV sets ‘in order to give fellow womxn a voice in a way where they feel safe'.
Moon says that for far too long social media was a part of the problem, in allowing students harass each other online. But now she believes it's time to 'fight back and use social media to our advantage'.
While Moon says that some schools embroiled in the allegations have met with her, others have failed to take any recognition of the allegations.
James Priory, the headmaster of Tonbridge School, reportedly read Moon's open letter and described the alleged behaviour as 'incompatible' with the school’s ethos, according to the Times. Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Eton tells ELLE UK: 'Eton insists that all our pupils treat others with kindness, decency and respect. We run workshops about healthy relationships and educate our pupils about consent. A number of further initiatives are in advanced planning. However, we must never be complacent and we are always seeking to learn.'
These schools have a ‘reputation to uphold as a great place for boys rather than a safe place for women’, claims Moon.
Elitist schools can breed ‘locker room banter’, she adds, which she thinks continues to take centre stage over protecting students. ‘Silence is compliance, far too often people are bystanders in this,’ she continues, citing her Instagram initiative as a way to hopefully combat that secrecy.
According to a survey published by Plan International last month 58% of girls aged 14 to 21 say they have been publicly sexually harassed in their learning environment.
Moon says that some believe the issue of rape culture in schools is a countrywide issue, rather than solely affecting those who attend private schools. But Moon says that her concern with private schools, specifically, is that its alumni disproportionately end up in powerful positions — even running the country. A study by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission published in 2019 found that people who hold top jobs in politics, the judiciary, media and business, are five times more likely to have been educated at private school than the general population.
‘You worry what type of environment men are cultivating as CEOs, if you know how they behaved in their youth’, Moon says.
A former Eton pupil, Tom Oliver, recently spoke to the Financial Times about what he sees as a prioritising of reputation and achievement above all else at fee-paying schools. 'When your parents are paying £35,000 a year, you don’t feel you can complain about your welfare,' he told the FT. 'A lot of money has been spent on our education — they want to see results, and everything else gets sidelined.'
Moon is calling on the schools — and universities — to enforce weekly sex education classes which encourage and foster a positive experience among students. She believes those who have been assaulted or harassed should be given counselling and perpetrators need rehabilitation so they don’t re-offend.
Finally, Moon says survivors should not be forced to share classes with alleged perpetrators. 'It may sound like a lot,' says Moon, 'but it shouldn’t be too much of a feat for private schools with reams of resources'.
You Might Also Like