[this is a crowd funding event, im copy pasting]
Bullying and Harassment Permitted by Bristol University
My name is Raquel Rosario Sánchez. I have been bullied and harassed by students at Bristol University for my feminist principles for over two years. The University has failed to protect me. My case seeks to ensure what is happening to me does not happen to other students.
I am a feminist writer, campaigner and researcher from the Dominican Republic. I was accepted on a PhD course at the University of Bristol, starting in January 2018. My academic specialism is in ending violence against girls and women. My PhD work focuses on online communities for men who pay for sex.
By the time I arrived in the UK, on November 2017, I was already a recognised feminist writer who published regularly both in English and in Spanish. It was on that basis that feminist political campaign Woman’s Place UK asked me to chair its upcoming meeting in Bristol, scheduled for 8 February 2018. I invite you to please take a look at some of my writing, research and campaigning on women and girls rights.
Woman’s Place UK exists to protect women’s sex-based rights, as they are enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, and is falsely described as an anti-trans organisation. Because I was associated with it, as soon as the event was announced, a number of trans activist students at the University of Bristol started bullying, harassing and targeting me at various events, both inside and outside university campus. The first incident took place in January 2018. The last one (so far) in March 2020. I’ve done everything I can to try to get the University of Bristol to stop it – but they’ve refused to take any steps to help me, even failing to properly follow their own procedures.
When I came from the Dominican Republic, on a scholarship, to be at the Centre for Gender and Violence Research, my life felt like a dream come true. Over the next two years, this dream became a nightmare. I have been subject to intense hate, vitriol and bigotry. This took the form of mainly online abuse by a range of people, some of whose names and identities were obscured, others of whom I could identify as being students at the University. Among them, people have incited their social media followers to throw eggs and milkshakes at me. I’ve read that I should be punched and turfed out of England. Trans activists have called for my deportation. I’ve been called terf, scum, trash, nasty, bigot, heinous and sickening, during periodic campaigns of vilification targeting every feminist event I’ve participated in.
But when I raised this with the University of Bristol, their immediate response was to question me.
I read the University’s policies, which clearly stated that what was happening to me was unacceptable, and filed a student complaint against the students targeting me. In April 2018, the University of Bristol opened disciplinary procedures against one student, who identifies as trans. The charges were (among others) “bullying, harassment and unacceptable behaviour.” The student got legal representation, and the process prolonged for about a year and a half. Meanwhile, they escalated their behaviour, mounting even more campaigns targeting me at various feminists events, inside and outside the University of Bristol.
The University started three separate Disciplinary Hearings only to close them immediately. They argued there were security concerns posed by the threat of their own balaclava-clad students who would protest each hearing. When I was due to give evidence on 15 June 2018, trans activists students distributed a pamphlet titled ‘Why We Fight The TERF War’ in which students were encouraged to yell ‘SCUM SCUM SCUM’ and ‘You’re shit and you know you are’. The University never managed to question the trans student they were allegedly investigating. They did allow the trans student’s barrister to cross-examine me in front of my bully. The University lawyer and the Disciplinary Committee also questioned me. I was asked about my feminist ideas and made to ‘explain myself’ for having the temerity to chair a meeting on women’s rights. To this day, I am the only one who has had to answer any questions.
I filed my student complaint on 1 February 2018. The University of Bristol closed down the disciplinary procedures on 27 June 2019 “for reasons unrelated to the merits of the case”, providing no further explanation. The University dismissed my student complaint on 19 December 2019. Throughout, the University insisted that it was paramount that I, along with my supervisors at the Centre for Gender and Violence Research, maintained confidentiality when faced with constant bullying. Almost two years later, they turned around and denied that any bullying took place. When they dismissed my student complaint in December 2019, the University argued that the purpose of confidentiality was to protect the bully. That meant that all along, I had to watch myself be publicly bullied and harassed by throngs of privileged, British students who were making a sport out of bullying an immigrant who had just arrived in the UK. The impact of this both on my health and my academic performance was severe.
In the Autumn of 2019, I spoke about what had been happening to me for the first time and my story was featured both in The Sunday Times and the BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme. At that point, the University of Bristol pressured me to suspend my studies on the basis that I was not making sufficient academic progress.
I am deeply grateful to the Dominican Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology which has decided to fund me for another year, despite the considerable impact the bullying and this institutional process have had on my academic performance. I am equally grateful to the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the University of Bristol which has shown me nothing but kindness and solidarity throughout this ordeal. The Head of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research has issued a public statement detailing the facts of this internal matter and condemning the University of Bristol’s handling of the process. You can read the public statement here.
Unsurprisingly, trans activist students continue to target me, attempting to cancel feminist meetings I organise inside the University of Bristol, as recently as March 2020. This is not a healthy or humane learning environment for any student. The University’s actions are not only in contravention of their own institutional policies, but are also illegal.The CaseI believe that the University’s failure to protect me is because they have a policy of not properly applying its disciplinary procedures against students who identify as trans rights activists. I am now preparing litigation against the University of Bristol for its failure to properly protect me from the bullying and harassment I have suffered. The legal breaches I am alleging are indirect sex discrimination (because most people who suffer this intimidation from trans activists are women, and therefore it is women who primarily suffer because of the University’s policy), unlawful victimisation under the Equality Act 2010, among others.
With this aim, I have instructed Peter Daly at Slater and Gordon to represent me. The immediate first step is to prepare a detailed Letter Before Claim and then, once we are in receipt of the University’s response to that letter, draft the claim itself.I am told that cases such as this can cost in excess of £50,000. In order to get the case off the ground, I am initially seeking to raise £10,000, which will cover the initial costs I have incurred, the Letter Before Claim, the lodging of the claim itself and the initial stages of the litigation. Following that, I will need to pay for the case itself, and also raise money to ensure that I can pay the University’s costs in case I am not successful. There is no such thing as a guaranteed success in litigation, and although I have been told that my case is strong, there is a possibility that I might lose. I am litigating against a huge organisation with near enough limitless resources.
Your support is crucial!
We were ready to launch this case just before the COVID-19 health crisis hit. I understand that these are challenging circumstances for all of us. Please feel free to donate to efforts to alleviate the effects of the crisis, which are undoubtedly more urgent. If you can contribute, I’d appreciate whatever you can donate to help fund my case. Please share this page among your network of colleagues, friends and family. My case is about how an elite university treats its students when nobody is watching and they believe that they’ll face no consequences. Therefore, this an academic issue. I would appreciate the support of everyone concerned about the intimidatory climate fomented by aggressive student activists, and the academic institutions which enable them.
Raquel Rosario Sánchez
This account stokes my fires. I am ready to do something about this shit.
Raquel Rosario Sanchez is the real definition of brave and stunning. I’m a UK citizen as well (dual), and I hope I can travel one day to meet her and chat in Spanish about what absolute wankers the trans activists are. I have always loved her writing, and wish I could be half as eloquent in my second language as she is in hers. She suffers as a woman of color also, which makes these privileged fuckers whinging at her for advocating for women’s sex-based rights all the more infuriating. I hate to wish harm on anyone, but at the same time I hope one day these people get a taste of what oppression actually means.
In the meantime, I’m happy to lend any financial support I can, as other feminists have done for me.
I am so sorry for how she has suffered. I have suffered too, again and again, for my sex. I am over it on Ovarit.
It’s time to burn this shit to the ground.
So many of the women in the UK actually involved in court cases are women of colour!
Raquel Rosario Sánchez
But nooo, being gender critical is just a “white woman” thing 🙄
If you have spare change, please donate to Raquel's case _^
This is truly fucked up. Quote from the text, emphasis mine:
Oh okay?! So now you get to do whatever shitty things you decide to if you just identify as a TRA? Wow. The goalposts keep moving, yet again. Shame on the University, this is absolutely appalling.
I donated some time ago. Hopefully she will win.
the case is still ongoing, i read some of the updates on the page. The university keeps stalling and changing the date's.
She is an impressive woman, and so brave for standing up against this bullying campaign. I just pledged, I hope she wins.
Donated. This cannot stand.
Someone I know saw something similar happen to them except it wasn't over transactivism. Noone helped her, she lost her suit and her academic file, physical, mental and financial health are ruined.
Universities will often not enforce their own politics if it suits a political agenda. Bureaucracy crushes the student and if they try to take it further, the university will have insurance to pay for legal costs, the culprits will send a delegate to speak in their place while the victim is left alone without funding to fend for herself while being gaslit and humiliated by "defense" attorneys.
There's no winning these cases unless they get taken to the media.
Here is her open letter to the ministry of education: https://archive.is/ImrAW
The following is a copy of the letter that feminist student society Women Talk Back! has sent to the Minister of Education Gavin Williamson regarding sanctions imposed by the Bristol SU for being a single-sex feminist society. The Bristol SU also seeks to ban the president of our student society, PhD student Raquel Rosario Sanchez, from leadership roles for defending women’s right to privacy, dignity and safety during an incident that took place in March 2020. The students are seeking support in what they regard to be an attempt to erode their rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and to single-sex spaces.
Dear Mr Williamson,
Following your announcement of proposed legislation to protect academic freedom against “rising intolerance” within universities in February (‘Turning the tide on cancel culture will start with universities respecting free thought,’ The Telegraph), we would like to inform you of an on-going threat to student’s free speech and freedom of association, both inside the Bristol SU and the University of Bristol. We are Women Talk Back!, a University of Bristol student society that holds regular female-only consciousness-raising meetings where we engage in lively discussion and debate, while centring our experiences as women living under patriarchy. We are open to all women, regardless of student status, age, income or background. The group was set up informally among students and affiliated with the Bristol Student Union in 2018, gathering weekly inside the University’s Multifaith Chaplaincy.
The issue of male violence and its impact on women and girls, is discussed in virtually in all our meetings. Our attendees have stressed how important it is that we protect their rights to privacy, safety and dignity when discussing such sensitive matters. Therefore, when affiliating to the Bristol SU, we consulted with discrimination lawyers to help us explain why we utilise the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act 2010. As well as regular discussion groups, Women Talk Back! holds larger, public events, inviting feminist speakers to discuss topics such as sexual assault, prostitution and academic freedom.
We welcome the fact that there are hundreds of student societies open to everyone, including another feminism-themed one, but we proudly prioritise women’s lives and experiences in ours. After we became affiliated, the cornerstone of our student society being our women-only status, the Bristol SU changed its bylaws to modify it’d definition of ‘women’ to mean:
“All who self define as women, including (if they wish) those with complex gender identities that include 'woman', and those who experience oppression as women.”
This definition is not in accordance with UK law. Also, there is no definition of the word ‘men’ in the Bristol SU bylaws.
On the evening of 1st March 2020, Women Talk Back! held a consciousness-raising meeting titled ‘Boundaries and Feminism’. We described this meeting as:
“One of the core foundations of human relationships comes out of boundaries. Where do I end and where does the other begin? My space. My will. My rights. All of these interact and are negotiated when we encounter others. Most often than not, women’s lives seem to be bounded by social conventions, laws, traditions, culture... rather than boundaries being the result of a balanced negotiation between a woman’s needs and desires, and other people that surround her.” A couple of student trans activists, including a self-identifying transwoman, turned up to the session. All information regarding our society clearly state that our consciousness-raising meetings are women-only (as opposed to our larger events that are open to everyone). The male student stated being aware that Women Talk Back! operates under the single-sex exemptions of the Equality Act 2010, but said they thought that by showing up in person and “being nice” to us, they would be able to circumvent our boundaries. We recognised these student trans activists from their previous targeting of some of our larger events and protesting feminist events hosted by other student societies, including a time when they had to be removed by security (paid by students) after attempting to hijack the meeting.
The President of our student society reiterated that we are using the law to hold our women-only meetings and males are not allowed to join the meeting. They refused to accept that and this provoked a 45-minute standstill between our President and the student transactivists, in which she continuously repeated the aforementioned point, over and over again. As retaliation for establishing and maintaining boundaries, they reported us to the Bristol SU claiming that women saying “no” constituted “extremely harmful psychological injury.” The Bristol SU validated this account. Following the 1 March 2020 incident, the Bristol SU retroactively claimed that we were never single-sex to begin with, which is a curious assertion because our women-only status has been the most pressing bone of contention in our relationship with the Bristol SU during these past three years.
The Bristol SU opened up an investigation into this complaint and Women Talk Back! provided three witness statements (aside from our President’s separate account) from women who were present that night in which we detailed the intimidating nature of this incident and how we felt threatened into being forced to weaken our boundaries for fear of retaliation from student trans activists. The result of this investigation was the Bristol SU sanctioning our student society and banning our President from leadership roles. The Student Union ordered:
Mandatory diversity training so we accept males into our women-only space
Our President must step down from her role, and cannot run as a committee member on any other society’s committee for two years The group is not allowed to be female-only, and we must make it clear on our social media pages and our page on the SU website that our group is ‘open to everyone’
As a student society, we have stood up for women’s right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and to uphold the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act 2010. As a result of that, we have been punished. We wish the Bristol SU respected our rights, as women, but evidently that is not the case. We feel deeply concerned about the message this situation sends to the public.
We want to be clear, particularly to young and potentially impressionable women who might be intimidated by the prospect of peer pressure, that women have a right to say “no” and refuse the advances of any male who makes them feel intimidated or threatened, which are sentiments that we all felt that night. We also want to stress that no amount of emotional manipulation, blackmail or institutional coercion justifies the erosion of women’s boundaries around ourselves and without our consent.
The University of Bristol and the Bristol SU have both created an institutional climate in which male students feel entitled to force themselves into women’s spaces where they are not allowed. And to seek punishment and sanctions against the female students who assert their boundaries. Our President, PhD student Raquel Rosario Sánchez, is currently taking legal action against the University of Bristol for their institutional response to the continuing targeting she has experienced from student trans activists who refuse to accept her right to express feminists opinions they might disagree with over academic and policy matters in which she is an expert. The case is due to go through the courts this year.
It is important to note that at the time this incident and subsequent sanctions were imposed on us, the Women Talk Back! leadership was entirely made of international students from Latin American and the Caribbean. Why should it fall on immigrant women within British academic institutions to uphold UK law?
While we are grateful to our President for her unwavering commitment to protecting women's rights to privacy, safety and dignity, and to uphold the single-sex exemptions enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, it should not fall on students to fight for our legal rights against academic institutions and student unions that prove themselves to be complicit in the relentless targeting of feminist students and staff.
No woman should ever have to spend 45 minutes repeatedly asserting her boundaries when dealing with a male person who refuses to take the word “no” for an answer, like Raquel did that night in March 2020. And as a result, no group of female students should ever be punished and coerced into weakening our established boundaries, by institutions with a duty to protect us from targeting, like we are right now in March 2021. These are not the lessons women should be learning in academia.
This was not an isolated event, but rather the culmination of a pattern of behaviour displayed by the Bristol SU in an attempt to bully our student society out of existence. It is clear that they do not want to be associated with a student society that presents an alternative view to those with the loudest or most threatening voices. Our experience of dealing with the Bristol SU is an example of “unacceptable silencing and censoring” that you referred to in your recent comments relating to your new legislative proposals. Unfortunately, this is one of many examples of breaches to free speech (and freedom of assembly, in our case) that are particularly targeting feminist students, groups and speakers.
The proposed policy changes you have laid out would help our student society greatly, as the Free Speech Champion could provide an official framework that we can utilise to report these breaches. We are keen for these proposed changes to be adopted as soon as possible so that we can take our response further. We would appreciate a meeting to discuss the obstacles students are facing when simply trying to exercise their rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and single-sex exemptions under the law.
Thank you very much and we look forward to your response. Respectfully and with gratitude,
Women Talk Back!