Students 'were forced to kiss without consent' in acting classes

Students ‘were forced to kiss without consent’ in acting classes at leading drama school being sued by two actresses who claim they were sexually assaulted

  • Alyse McCamish and Sydney Feder, both 23, are suing the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama 
  • The prestigious school is facing allegations it failed to properly investigate misconduct claims 
  • Ms McCamish, from Tennessee in the United States, said she was sexually assaulted during freshers week when she was 19-years-old 

Students at a leading drama school have claimed they were forced to kiss without consent in acting classes, as two young actresses have launched a legal action saying they were sexually assaulted. 

Sydney Feder and Alyse McCamish, both 23, are pursuing legal action against The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama over suffering at the hands of a ‘sex predator’.

The college – whose famous alumni include actors Sir Anthony Hopkins, Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones – is accused of covering up complaints by 16 female under-graduate over their fellow student.

The women told how they were ‘kissed and groped’ in acting lessons while studying at the college whose president is Prince Charles.

They said the college ‘systematically’ failed to protect them from sex assaults by a ‘sexual predator’ fellow student.

The Royal Welsh College of Music Drama, in Cardiff, has been accused of covering up alleged sex attacks on female students by a fellow male student and is now subject of civil action

The young actresses say they were attacked in halls of residence and in women’s dressing rooms on the prestigious campus in Cardiff’s civic centre.

Sydney, who lists herself as an actor and model, told how she wasn’t listened to after an alleged attack on her in the dressing room.

She said: ‘I made a report to the college and it felt like screaming into the abyss. They interviewed me about it once. That was it. I was never spoken to again after I had made the report.’

Sydney, who moved to the Cardiff-based college from Connecticut, US, said: ‘From day one I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was not a safe space.

‘In acting classes, people would kiss you without consent or grope you without consent and they would be encouraged by staff and congratulated for making that bold decision.’

Alyse, of Tennessee, said she was abused in Fresher’s Week but her complaints were not taken seriously.

Prince Charles is President of the music and drama college whose alumni includes Sir Anthony Hopkins and Rob Brydon and whose vice presidents include actor Michael Sheen

She said: ‘It felt like they had such a lack of empathy for an arts school.

‘It made me lose a lot of faith in humanity. I lost a lot of faith in people who have power.’

The two young women have launched civil proceedings against the college whose vice presidents include actor Michael Sheen and opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel.

During the course of the investigation 14 other young actresses also made complaints against the same alleged attacker.

Solicitor John Watkins, who represents the women, said: ‘The college failed in its duty of care to these women and to the 14 others who were assaulted by the accused.

‘Time after time the college fell short of their own safeguarding policy. Their actions not only protected, but enabled, the accused.

‘The college should of course be a safe place for students. The fact that they were living in a different country, far away from friends and relatives who could support them makes the college’s response even harder to fathom.

He added: ‘The conclusions outlined in the colleges own investigation documents which we have copies of find the accused guilty of sexual misconduct.

‘By their own guidelines, he should have been expelled. The girls should have been vindicated. They were not.’

Mr Watkins, of legal firm Bater Law, said the college failed to following the protocols and policies in their own safeguarding policy – and did not approach the police immediately despite the ‘accusation of criminal activity’ in 2016 and 2017.

He said it was suggested one actress was in a ‘failed’ relationship with the accused man – when she has only met him one day earlier.

Another actress was asked if she was ‘topless’ in the changing room at the time of the alleged assault.

Mr Watkins said: ‘They were made to feel like nuisances and troublemakers. Little wonder the other 14 who were touched by the accused did not come forward initially. The culture of the college just doesn’t allow it.

‘They are resolved and want to make absolutely certain that no female students at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama will ever again be at the mercy of a sexual predator.

‘They want policies followed, women taken seriously and a whole culture change at the institution from the top down.

‘If 16 young women can come forward about a sexual predator, and yet nothing is done to protect them, what message does this send? An institution of this kind must face its responsibilities and act on them – no matter how uncomfortable the topic.’

The unnamed student was suspended from the college for two weeks over the allegations – but while he did not attend lectures he was still seen around campus.

A spokesperson for Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama said: ‘The safety and well-being of our students and staff is of the highest importance and we have formal mechanisms in place to both safeguard and support members of the College community who wish to report incidents.

‘The College treats every report of inappropriate behaviour with the upmost seriousness; our policies and procedures are kept under constant review in order to remain aligned with best practice.

‘We remain committed to listening openly to any member of our community, current or previous, who wish to report an incident through our formal processes – whether recent or historic.

‘We would encourage any complainants who have not reported their concerns to us, to do so.

‘It would be inappropriate for us to comment further on the specific allegations which are the subject of an ongoing legal process.’

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