University of Warwick student George Lawlor has spoken out about the abuse he has received on campus following his public opposition to sexual consent workshops.
Lawlor, a Politics and Sociology student at Warwick, wrote an article for The Tab in October which described a Facebook invitation to attend Warwick’s sexual consent workshop as “incredibly hurtful”, stating “I don’t have to be taught to not be a rapist”. Accompanying the article was a photo of Lawlor holding a sign that read ‘This Is Not What a Rapist Looks Like’.
A fierce backlash ensued across social and national media.
“When Lawlor holds up his sign, saying ‘this is not what a rapist looks like’ what it’s really saying is: ‘I fundamentally misunderstand rape as an issue’”, wrote Rebecca Reid in The Telegraph.
Others took to Twitter, with one user tweeting: “Congrats George Lawlor for not needing a class to be taught respect. Sadly you are not the majority. Many dudes need it […]”.
Now, however, Lawlor reports he is being abused on the University of Warwick campus and has stopped attending lectures and seminars “because of the perceived threat”.
He told The Daily Mail: “I was expecting a reaction, but I was not prepared for just how horrible it was,” saying “walking through campus, people would go silent as I walked past. It was really scary […] it got really nasty”.
He detailed how he was cornered in a bar, recounting, “These six guys just crowded round me and started shouting at me […] calling me a rapist, a misogynist, and threatening me […] I had to get out of there”.
He says that this abuse has also occurred online: “There was one guy messaging me on Facebook for over a week, calling me names like racist, rapist.” Speaking to The Telegraph, Lawlor said, “I wouldn’t change what I did, but I’m incredibly worried that it has utterly destroyed any chances I have of getting a good job”.
Martin Daubeny, a journalist who is championing Lawlor’s cause and attempting to highlight the abuse he has received, wrote, “Lawlor’s experience is just one manifestation of how university life is becoming increasingly challenging for men”.
However, there are also those who disagreed with Lawlor’s stance but who are still concerned about the mistreatment he has received.
Dr Fiona Vera Grey, operation coordinator for Rape Crisis South London, told The Telegraph, “it’s understandable that people are angry about this”, but clarified that the abuse is “bullying” and that “it closes down the conversation”.
She continued, “it would be better if people challenged him productively, without judgement and with respect”.
Nonetheless, one Warwick graduate, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Student that they were concerned with how little media attention has focused on the harassment faced by Lawlor’s critics. They told The Student that, after criticizing Lawlor’s journalism, they too were hounded by Twitter trolls. Speaking about an interview ITV conducted with Lawlor, they stated “ITV acted like he was the only victim”.
Asked about the reports of abuse on campus, The University of Warwick told The Student, “the welfare of our students is paramount to us.
“While George has not himself raised any concerns to those support services, both the Students Union and the Head of his academic department have already approached and spoken with him. We still remain concerned and both our student support services and George’s academic Department have reached out to him again to offer assistance.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely and we will also ensure that we are on hand to offer our support.”
The Student reached out to Lawlor, who declined to comment.
Image: George Lawlor: Twitter