Oxford Student Newspaper Editor Fired Three Months After ‘Victim-Blaming’ Rape Report
Rape allegations were brought this past spring against the student president of the prominent Oxford Union debating society. In June, OxStu editor Amelia Hamer was part of a reportorial trio which presented information purporting to refute those charges by stating “one of the victims knew their allegations were false.” The piece also worked to undermine the credibility of that victim by stating she “had a reputation” for being promiscuous. Specifically, for the victim, according to the report, “the allure of sexual encounters with well-known students was to develop a status as a ‘conquest-collector.'”
Upon its publication, a cavalcade of critics immediately swarmed, declaring the story little more than a sordid example of victim-blaming and slut-shaming.
Hamer defended the piece by pointing out the national British newspaper The Telegraph also published it and that “the information was in the public interest and that [publishing it] was not illegal and did not break the [Press Complaints Commission] Editors’ Code of Conduct.”
The article remains on the Telegraph site, although it was quickly pulled from the OxStu webpage. In addition, the university later paid for Hamer and another top OxStu editor to attend a media law training workshop to ostensibly better understand when they might be in legal trouble with their content.
“Such a response is at best meek and at worst insulting. We must not let the university send the message to the OxStu that it’s OK to victim blame, just so long as they make sure it can get through the university’s lawyers next time. We must not accept for one moment that alleged rape victims at our university can be treated this way just because attacks on them are veiled in media-law friendly language. Above all, we cannot accept that the OxStu’s editor Amelia Hamer can write such an offensive piece about one of her fellow students and think that the backlash will all blow over if she simply gets a CV-worthy Media Law law qualification in the end.”
The backlash, in the end, did not blow over.
Last week, roughly three months after the offending article first appeared in print and online, Hamer was removed from her top editorial spot by the faction of the Oxford student government [OUSU] that publishes the OxStu. The group stated it had “lost confidence in her because of her handling of [the] article.”
In an email to her former colleagues, Hamer declared, “Today OUSU made a statement: The student press is only free until the [student government] president decides it isn’t. … Everything you publish online now must be checked by OUSU — not just for legality but to ensure that it is in line with the ‘the interests of OUSU.'”
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