Let’s Talk About Regent, Rugby and Rape.

Update from the author
Once again I am overwhelmed at the amount of people who have read, shared and engaged with this article. To all of the women that have messaged me with their own experiences, I am so proud of you all for your bravery and strength. I wish to draw attention to the fact that this piece is talking about Regent House Grammar School during the time these men attended. Additionally, I have mentioned numerous times that rugby as a sport isn’t the problem but the culture that surrounds it, specifically in grammar schools, is. I have included below a resource for sexual consent training through organisations that work in Northern Ireland, which schools can host. Should anyone have any other resources please feel free to share them in the comments.

Let’s make sure no other young women suffer this fate.

Belfast PCSP Talking About Consent

There were two types of kids in my school, ones who attended Medallion parties and ones who didn’t (disclosure: I didn’t). Medallion parties were hosted after every match during the season by a member of the Medallion rugby team.

Image from Google Maps

 The Medallion rugby team was made up of the best rugby players in the year, all boys aged between 14 and 15. The parties were hosted at the home of one of the players and in attendance were the most popular, outgoing and beautiful people from that school year. If you are picturing something from an American high school teen movie, you’re probably on the right track.

In my year, the team made it to the Medallion Cup Final, which is hosted at Northern Ireland’s largest rugby stadium, the home of Ulster Rugby, Ravenhill. In the stands were hundreds of fans watching these teenagers as they played. Should these boys remain committed to their rugby training, they would then make it onto the 1st XV. The 1st XV competed for the Schools Cup, for which the final was hosted again at Ravenhill only this time, it was also shown on national TV throughout Northern Ireland. If your school was competing in the final, pupils were given a half day to attend the match. During my time in Regent House School I attended numerous matches at Ravenhill. The Medallion team from my year and the 1st XV made both finals there and so I stood with my friends, faces painted in our school colours, talking about our favourite player from the side-lines. It is no exaggeration to say that these boys were treated like minor celebrities.

Amongst the players and their close friends in my school were Jeff Anderson, Dylan Rogers and James McQuillan. All of whom are now convicted rapists, stalkers or domestic abusers (and in some cases, all three.) If you’re reading this, you’ve probably read my article on Jeff Anderson’s crimes and his father’s wealth and influence. However, you may not be aware of his close friend James McQuillan’s convictions for stalking and domestic violence, or his rugby teammate, Dylan Rogers, brutal rape and attack of his then girlfriend.

Jeff and James pictured together at a party. Personal image sent to me from a former friend of Jeff.

 I understand that the content of this article may be distressing to some and whilst I am in no way suggesting that the fact some of these men played rugby is to blame for their actions, I do feel it is important to bring into context the pedestal upon which these boys are placed and the sense of entitlement, exceptionalism and invulnerability that they grow up to develop as a result of this teenage idolisation.

Of course, I could not write about rugby and rape without mentioning the very public trial involving Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. Which sparked protests right across Northern Ireland and launched the #IBeliverHer movement. Whilst the men in this case were found not guilty, the comments they made after the alleged attack in their group WhatsApp included statements like  “we’re all top shaggers”, “there was a bit of spit roasting going on last night fellas”, “Boys, did you pass spit roast brasses” and “why are we all such legends?.” At the same time they were sending each other these messages, their victim was asking friends if they could drive her from Belfast to Newry to get emergency treatment in a specialist rape support centre. She received a 1cm laceration (cut) in her vaginal wall during the ordeal.

Regardless of whether you feel they were guilty of the crime or not, the language used to describe the victim, who at the time was 18, at the centre of the case is indicative of and offers an insight to, the way in which women are discussed and their sexuality ridiculed, in a male dominated sporting environment.

It may seem far-fetched to some that I could possibly have known Jeff, James and Dylan. However, the predatory nature of these men revealed itself long before their crimes became known. As I’ve disclosed previously, I had a near escape with Jeff when I was 15 and whilst I never met up with James, he was a known ‘creep’ amongst almost everyone in my year. It was not uncommon for girls my age, that is two to three years younger than James and Jeff, to receive messages and other online interactions from them (as I did) and we knew as a collective that they were trying to garner the attention of as many girls as possible. In fact, it is through the publishing of my previous article that it has been brought to my attention how many women Jeff tried to connect with, as so many  others ‘lucky’ to have escaped, have got in touch to share their experiences.

Dylan, myself, my friend and an my ex-boyfriend (Dylan’s best friend – cropped) pictured together on a night out in 2010. Personal image

 I knew Dylan better than Jeff and James as he was only one year above me and was best friends with a former boyfriend I had at age 18. Dylan’s arrogance and sense of entitlement was something that stood out to everyone who knew him. I particularly remember him saying to me on a night out “I know you want me.” At the same time as I was going out with his best friend. This sort of grotesquely arrogant statement was very much in character for Dylan, as I am sure anyone reading this that knew him will attest to.

Dylan Rogers, is now serving nine years in prison in Spain for brutally raping, attacking, beating and locking up his girlfriend during a sustained two-day attack. During which time, he took the sim card out of her phone and deleted all of her contacts, threw eggs at her, pepper sprayed her and demanded she danced naked for him whilst calling her his ‘slave.’ Dylan also hit her and smashed her head against the wall. He then grabbed hold of her neck and told her “he didn’t care whether he had to kill her” and covered her mouth with tape. His victim managed to escape, naked and covered in injuries, whilst Dylan showered.

James McQuillan and Jeffrey Anderson, pictured together. Personal image sent to me from a former friend of Jeff.

James McQuillian, pictured above with Jeffrey Anderson, was given a nine-month suspended sentence after attacking and stalking his ex-girlfriend after she broke up with him. Ciara Hindman, his victim, who has spoken out about her attack and now campaigns for more appropriate, safe and protective sentencing in Northern Ireland for victims of stalking and domestic violence, sustained injuries to her face, neck and body during the assault. For which James was charged with occasioning actual bodily harm, threats to kill and breaching a non-molestation order. James stalked and harassed Ciara and entered her apartment block on at least 100 occasions between February 10th 2019 until he was arrested on March 29. He turned up at her work as he knew when she took lunch breaks and would appear in and around her building. On one occasion Ciara was sat outside the building with her friends when they saw James leaving, when she called the police, they found his shoes on a different floor. There is currently no law relating specifically to stalking in Northern Ireland through which James could be charged.

Whilst I can’t confirm if James played rugby, he was close friends with Jeff who did. He was a part of the social circles Jeff was in and they shared the same friends. Dylan and Jeff both played on the 1st XV, meaning they were treated as sporting prodigies destined for greatness. In the reporting of both Jeff and Dylan’s sexual attacks, their attendance at a grammar school and their position as rugby players has been mentioned on numerous occasions.

Three men, within a two-year age span in my school, have been convicted of physically or sexually abusing women. When we consider that only 15% of those that experience sexual violence report it to the police, and of those reported only 1.7% end up in convictions, it’s equally astonishing and terrifying to realise how much of an exception these men are to have even been caught and convicted.

The Schools Cup Final for 2020 was cancelled due to Covid, however the 2019 final featured a promo video which was shared on the Ulster Rugby Youtube channel. In the video, which opens to the screams of an adoring crowd, boys of 17 or 18 years of age pose in sponsored rugby shirts, pitted against each other in a setting familiar to professional sport. If it wasn’t for their pubescent faces and bodies, teenage acne and overly styled – could only be a teenage boy – haircuts, you could be forgiven for assuming that this video was for full-time salaried players in a premiership league final.

Whilst there were no Youtube videos or ‘promos’ when I was in school, the sensationalising, adoration and worship with which these young men – boys – were treated was palpable, especially in the run up to a cup match.

Ravenhill Stadium, home to Ulster Rugby where the Medallion and Schools Cup Final are played. Image free to distribute in the public domain.

Numerous men who knew Jeff, many of whom played rugby with him, have messaged me, some anonymously and some bravely revealing their identity, since I published my article on Colin Anderson, to tell me of their regret and guilt at not doing something sooner. “He showed me a video on the tour bus once of a naked girl but I assumed someone sent it to him”, “I heard he had a spy pen but I never saw anything from it”, “He would come and sit beside me sometimes when we were heading to a match and talk about all the girls he’d slept with.” I understand and empathise with the guilt these men now feel, how could they have known that Jeff would actually be committing crimes that were so obscene, so deplorable?

What we must now ask ourselves as people, men and women, who want to see an end to the pervasiveness of this kind of predatory and abusive behaviour is what allows these boys to grow up into men that commit these kind of heinous acts. Regardless of the complete lack of appropriate sentencing (that’s another article in itself) the environment in which these boys are brought up, the sense of eliteness, of impenetrability and invulnerability that they develop from such a young age, when they’re told by their elders that their purpose in life, in rugby, in sport, is bigger than themselves, surely impacts how they move forward in the world and how they see themselves reflected in it.

Once again, this article isn’t an attack on rugby as a sport per se, more, it seeks to highlight the undeniable link between raising boys to behave like men long before they can understand who they are and what their place is in the world. Had Dylan, Jeff and to an extent James been relieved of the pressure of toxic masculinity, to not feel obliged to fulfil the roles forced upon them by a system that only respects and recognises physical prowess as a currency of what it means to be a man then perhaps their minds wouldn’t have become so warped in their sense of right and wrong. Perhaps if they didn’t feel a sense of entitlement and privilege resulting from the formative years of their lives being played out as heroes on the rugby field then maybe they wouldn’t have felt at liberty to take from the women closest to them whatever they felt they wanted, without their consent. Or perhaps they would have committed these crimes regardless.

Having spent 5 years of my life walking past them in the corridors of our school, knowing who they were before having learnt their second names and watching as parents, teachers and pupils alike shouted their names and screamed their praises from the side lines, I do believe that the sense of small town celebrity culture in which these men grew up has played a very crucial part in the criminals they have become.

Please consider making a donation to the Support Fund for Victims of Jeffrey Anderson to continue the fight for justice for the brave women who have spent six years of their lives trying to lock him up. For further information on Ciara Hindman and her remarkable campaign to introduce stalking laws in NI please visit this link.

68 replies on “Let’s Talk About Regent, Rugby and Rape.”

  1. I would like to applaud you for bringing a spot light to a very serious issue. An issue which will no doubt make a lot of people very uncomfortable. It is a shame however, that these people lash out at the article/ your character rather than too examine themselves first. A mistake I think a lot of men make, myself certainly included.
    I attended a private all boys’ school, participated in sport throughout, and then proceeded to work in professional rugby for 5 years. A collective environment for all the wrong kind of experiences to become the norm. Some of which I think should be shared to further cement why your argument is so important so I apologise if anything is uncomfortable to read.
    During my school years, the boys were lorded as men/ leaders to be, sporting achievements granted many excess privileges and ‘bus-loads of girls’ were brought to our sporting events. Locker room talk was rampant and constant bed post tallying was championed. Serious offences occurred were waved away to protect these men with bright prospects and family secured futures. This became the norm. And to speak out against it would be unthinkable and not so easy to unlearn.
    Fast forward working as a physio in professional sport, and while there were a few exceptional individuals the vast majority, player and coaching staff alike, where among the most toxic men I have ever encountered. ‘Boys will be boys’ the type that thought cheating on their pregnant wives while abroad on tour was worth celebrating ‘don’t smell his fingers!’. Pictures of one night stands were critiqued, accompanying the stories of the ‘whores they passed around’ filled the common areas with laughter and applause. One year a new signing was transferred to our team due to his fall out with his previous team for sleeping with another player’s wife, so perhaps not just a local incident? But no fear, he soon had his own chant for being such a ‘lad’ and ‘taking’ whoever he wanted…. This player had two daughters. Another player had multiple sexual assault allegations against students but was consistently protected by the club. A coach who challenged anyone who said they loved their woman ‘How is that possible, would u take the bullet for her? I wouldn’t, and if you would you’re an idiot’ he would gloat while shadow boxing. Unsurprisingly, he is no longer with his now, ex-wife, but these were a grilling many of the new players, often the same age as those mentioned in the above article, received.
    These men did not come from wealth, they did not come from privilege, an argument many are using as ‘the main reason’ we should be focusing on. This argument is simply not true and is a dangerous assumption, there is a culture that is palpable and you either took part or at best turned a blind eye, doing so could keep you in your job and if not you leave and risk a backlash similar to what Gemma is facing here.

  2. First of all I think it is amazing that you have created a platform that enables a safe environment for people to share their stories around such a difficult topic to speak about let alone voice their own experiences so I sincerely applaud you. Reading through the comments section it would be fair to say that your article as a whole has received mixed responses, which in my eyes is a good thing as it shows that there is plenty of work still to be done. I can only speak on my own experiences as we all can but in my opinion I genuinely do not believe that the particular sport the three individuals participated in would realistically have played a part in what they would go on to do. I believe the entire concept of team sports at a young age allows young people to develop skills that they will carry with them later in life, teamwork, facing challenges, working towards a goal etc and overall creates a sense of community with perhaps not found in other aspects of their schooling life. I believe the reason that there has been backlash regarding this is that people who have had incredibly positive experiences taking part in sport through the school with some even over the same time period as those the article is aimed at and there is a bit of painting everyone with the same brush so to speak and nobody would like to be associated with a culture that the majority of us just did not experience. I by no means am trying to take away from the points you are trying to get across but I do think it is unfair to criticize an overall group of people for being involved in any sport within the school calling it a culture due to three individuals as I genuinely feel we as a society have to treat things like this in a case by case manner. Lastly, I mentioned about creating a sense of community and you are well on your way to achieving this especially around such a difficult and relevant topic and long may it continue.

  3. Hey Gemma,

    Thanks for writing this article, it took me back to back to being a 5th year Instonian in 2007/2008. Everything you’ve said about the elitist rugby culture is true (in my opinion), and it was well known that these elite players (coincidentally also often with rich, elite parents) could be admitted into 6th form regardless of their GCSE results.

    I do however disagree that a rape culture existed within these groups, but rather potentially a sex culture instead which was equally prevalent in the female pupil spectator population and teens of that time. Whilst I too am horrified regarding the offences detailed, I think it’s important not to tar entire subjectively categorised segments of the population by gender, school. chosen sport, or anything else, and remember this story relates to 3 toxic individuals rather than “toxic masculinity” as a whole.

    For the record, I was in the same year group as the unnamed Instonian pictured alongisde Dylan above (who’s face really should be blurred). I haven’t seen him since around that time, but he was a very kind and talented individual who I could never imagine would be pictured and potentially grouped with convicted sex offenders, just for playing a sport to a high level.

    Lastly I would also say that I doubt sexual consent training would have prevented Dylan Rogers’ crime of beating, raping and falsely imprisoning his girlfriend for two days, but I do wish it was so simple and could be solved as easily.

    1. Just to clarify that by sex culture I am referring to normal biological sexual desires being acted upon between consenting young adults of legal age within a broader society with little religious constraint etc. I have never heard of anyone being accused of any sexual offence from my school years & do not find the link between rugby/elitism and such offences to be legitimate.

  4. This is really striking to me and feels very close to home. I am a year different from you in age and attended the same school as both Ciara and Stuart Olding. I know another boy who would have been in that rugby team at Regent’s House, and I even know the boy that Dylan is tackling in that photo.

    There was absolutely a rape culture.

    I know that a girl in Ciara’s year group was raped during her time at school. We even had male members of staff propositioning younger girls in that year group; how could anyone have felt like they could speak out?

    I was raped by a boy four years older than me in another Belfast school’s rugby team. I was 14 at the time. I can’t imagine how many other girls would be able to say that, and it makes me feel physically sick that they could.

    I even experienced problems related to sexual harassment during my time at school and they were just brushed under the carpet. It took me years to come to terms with the trauma that I suffered and to find coping mechanisms.

    Unfortunately, this culture also stems from the misogyny at the heart of religion in this country and it seems so very unlikely to change any time soon.

  5. I notice a lot of people are offended at the mention of school-level rugby. If your first reaction to this is to immediately jump to the defence of playing rugby at school, then you should probably read it again. You have missed the point. Of course not all school-level rugby players go on to commit sexual assaults, that would be an absurd claim. However I have no doubt in my mind that when I was at school, the culture and rhetoric that permeated the rugby team, and perhaps the wider sporting environment at school, was extremely toxic (in many ways, in fact). I say this as someone who played rugby at school. It begins with small encouragements of aggression, dominance and physicality in training and then manifests itself into ‘locker-room talk’ (to quote Donald Trump). Then the path to complete degradation of women is eventually paved and so on. I am proud of the fact I played rugby at school and will happily laud it for its favourable qualities; this article does not contradict that statement and does not seek to diminish the enjoyment that many school children experienced as players. Instead we must focus on reforming and learning from such failures in order to make it an environment that does not normalise such degrading and destructive behaviour (and homophobia, racism etc. but I am sticking to the context of the article), otherwise we may end up with more examples of the three men listed above. This ought to be a very achievable aim.

  6. I was in Regent. There definitely was a toxicity in some of the boys and teachers did nothing to quell it by backing up the narrative that the rugby boys were untouchable and most actions were without consequences as long as the school was top of the leaderboard, but I can’t say that wouldn’t have been any different if the main sport was hockey or football etc etc. Regent prizes itself on being a producer of sporting greats and the teachers and pupils alike buy into that tribalism for the most part. That would obviously breed a level of arrogance in some top players but I’m not convinced it “creates” the issue, rather exasperates something that’s already been there within these people. As people have commented, the team was largely made up of decent people with a love of the sport and like everything had its bad characters. I’d imagine the toxicity was less in playing the game itself, and more in the upbringing , self entitlement and privilege that allowed them to think there was no consequences to any actions. The link as I see it is possibly less about rugby encouraging a toxic behaviour and more about these people actively seeking out rugby in order to obtain the fame , attention and a platform to demonstrate their physical prowess that goes hand in hand with the sport and ANY sport (of regent played football would the outcome be different) – What I mean is that the 3 in this article would actively seek out the sport as a platform to show off and mark their masculinity more than they would have any love of a game. That coupled with no teachers , parents or mentors discouraging this toxic behaviour or teaching right and wrong makes the issue worse. 1 of these 3 didn’t play rugby, but DID seek out fame and attention in music. It’s possibly wrong to make such a direct link to rugby and would be more fitting to examine why young men these days are growing up to see women as prizes to be won and actions without consequences. Why they think fame and popularity means they can do what they want unchecked. I would respectfully argue that pointing the finger directly at rugby as a sport in itself without examining the broader environment isn’t an projecting an unbiased viewpoint.

    1. Would the decent rugby boys not be best to speak out against this sort of behaviour then? If the sport attracts potential predators, they need to start having a stronger stance against it.

      1. Absolutely! In fact you’ve probably hit the nail on the head. They are possibly afraid to call out the behaviour and need to speak out more so peers know it’s not acceptable

  7. Firstly, I think it is fantastic that you have drawn attention to the crimes which have been commited and are allowing other girls who might have been victims to gain the confidence to come forward.
    However, your method of presenting information stinks of the click bate era we now live in. It is important to present well balanced discussion on difficult topics like the ones you talk about in your last couple of articles. Doing this in a sometimes sensationalist manor, with huge generalisations and tedious links between individual’s crimes, their school and a sport not all of them even played is frankly irresponsible.
    This tactic of stirring up emotions from those who already support your view while refusing to engage with those who disagree with some aspects in a constructive manor is a popular political tactic these days. I’m not saying you are a fan of Donald Trump’s manifesto, however you obviously admire his methods of communication.
    I wonder if you consider the bigger picture as you write? As an example, if Anderson advertising loses all of its clients, will the single mothers who work there be able to find work in these difficult times? Will you start a support fund for them as well?
    Again I would like to state that your heart is in the right place but your methods will do little to engage the whole of society in a productive manner so we can reduce and remove these crimes from being commited again and move forward together.
    You can choose to take this comment with a holistic perspective, or take little snippets to strengthen your divisive narrative (opinion based on the breadth of comments here). After all, many of the people here are going to be from NI and we all know better than most that stirring up divisive emotions of anger is rarely the best solution.
    I wish you all the best with your endeavours to prevent these types of crimes happening in the future. Without engaging opinions from everyone I fear you may come up short of achieving real meaningful positive change.

    1. Hello,

      If I’m honest, it’s quite hard to take a comment in which you compare me to Donald Trump with a ‘holistic’ perspective, as that’s not a very holistic statement… Do you know any single mothers who work there that are now fearing for their job? If so, I can confirm I won’t be starting up a fund for staff at ASG & Partners, but please feel free to do so if you wish. I would imagine the staff at ASG will be fine, although if you’ve read the comments section of my first article in which many former ASG staff members speak about the abuse they suffered from Colin whilst they worked there, maybe it would be a good thing if he lost his business and power.

      There’s never a ‘right’ way for a woman to speak out, that we know from centuries of women being told their ‘methods’ are incorrect no matter what those methods may be. Perhaps this article won’t make a difference, but judging from the amount of messages I’ve received from victims, not only of these men but of other rugby players specifically, all of whom are women I’ve never known personally or even met, and the healing alone that comes from alone, I am satisfied with the impact it’s had thus far.

  8. there are a lot of people missing the point here, with their defence of rugby as a sport. What we NEED to recognise here, is that there IS a link between sexual aggression and athletes. Whether this is correlation or causation is something to be debated. Is it that (in this case) men with more testosterone are more likely to play sports, and are therefore more likely to be sexually aggressive? Could it be that the attraction of the glory that comes from sporting success attracts those with psychopathic or narcissistic tendencies, and so are therefore more likely to be sexually predatory? The bottom line is IT DOESN’T MATTER what the reason is, or if it’s a combination of both – I think from these observations we can conclude that sporting groups therefore should be considered at risk groups, where it’s members may be more likely to become predators. Surely it makes sense to target these groups with information when they’re young, and programs to encourage increased empathy, and also empowering them to speak out against their team mates if they see something that is wrong? An awful lot of I LOVE RUGBY SO I CAN’T ACCEPT THERE MIGHT BE AN ISSUE chatter going on in here. If you love the sport, and hate the repeated stories like this that surround it, do something to improve the situation rather than trying to silence those highlighting the issue.

    Here are some interesting articles re sports and sexual aggression –

    > http://sportsconflict.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Dating-Aggression.pdf
    abstract –
    Aggressive male sports have been criticized as bastions of sexism and training grounds
    for aggression against women, but there have been few empirical demonstrations of
    these alleged relationships. The authors studied self-reported dating aggression and
    sexual coercion in 147 college men. Men who had participated in aggressive high school
    sports, as compared with other men, engaged in more psychological aggression, physical aggression, and sexual coercion toward their dating partners, caused their partners
    more physical injury, were more accepting of violence, had more sexist attitudes and
    hostility toward women, were more accepting of rape myths, and were less tolerant of
    homosexuality. Results indicate that participation in aggressive high school sports is one
    of the multiple developmental pathways leading to relationship violence.

    > https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/42518724/Understanding_Sexual_Aggression_Against_20160209-7822-1o38e9u.pdf?1455061876=&response-content-disposition=inline%3B+filename%3DUnderstanding_Sexual_Aggression_Against.pdf&Expires=1594220379&Signature=bug6aibslYk-4nyrgNbNw8Hs-77dlVFQP4iwHNZ4oHm5TNg3Wv6DoKj2-qFHMwvS-iLJzoh5a4zlC~zSeZb5dektzZ8OYu5i7DqeTelcRPLIPk3Qd54Gy2hh6OnBS4e7E3oUyj5BcfivqgkLuCnJmLcb~Cb1nfRGpHFZf4TMpbSnRC9KdhHi9VEP~Mgz3FOufUtAznrX1NvTTjPGyk1cFHR1aP3URjHKlQRnbUd2auY39Ani5vGqw1Cmb2aYI091eSkarK9k6otr5qa5dIuVEGMSeOMTiwtKT6~rIL3~7Yx9fC9YCEWeGjGei271Biq-kCboioCOPXIXcoOgz~kAYA__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA
    abstract –
    Data from 139 college men who participated in and viewed contact (e.g.,ice hockey) and
    noncontact (e.g.,tennis) sports at different rates of frequency were examined to determine if
    there was a relationship between these variables and level of sexual aggression against women.
    The authors also examined whether attitudes toward women,fraternity membership,and sports
    ideology were related to sexual aggression against women. Hierarchical regression analysis
    indicated that attitudes toward women,fraternity membership,and viewing contact sports were
    significant predictors of sexual aggression against women,with high scores on these variables
    forecasting higher levels of sexual aggression against women. In addition,low scores on men’s
    contact sports participation significantly forecasted higher levels of sexual aggression against
    women. Suggestions for future research in this area are discussed and implications of the results
    for the socialization of fraternity members and other males are considered.

  9. This completely chimes with what I remember at Methody (I was in the class of 2011). Very similar stories were known about Blane McIlroy, long before the Ulster Rugby trial. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when the news came out – the rugby lads felt entitled to everything, including other people’s bodies. The fact that first XV rugby players could get into sixth form with lower GCSE grades than everyone else is proof enough that they were unaccountable.

    I find it depressingly predictable that the line that apologists are using to criticise you is the false claim that you are a “slut/whore” and can’t be trusted. The fact that their go-to argument to discredit a woman is to degrade her sexually should tell them something is wrong in their world view but they are in denial. If everything at these schools is fine, why have 7 men from Belfast grammar schools gone on trial for sexual offences in 3 years? If we want things to be better for the next generation, we have to stop denying that there is a link between power dynamics in school rugby culture and a lack of regard for sexual consent.

    If it’s more important for you to defend school rugby culture than to promote consent and address the issues causing harm, then you’re part of the problem. It’s time to grow up and move on from the school glory days.

  10. As a European student moving to Regent House, I found it incredibly difficult to adapt to the secondary school culture as it was. However, this was greatly hindered by the toxic masculinity displayed by the rugby team, in particularly the older lads in sixth year. I felt that these young men were held on a pedestal in the eyes of the school, so I thought I would go to training and try out for the team. The first few sessions went great and I was really enjoying getting to know the lads. However, one rainy Thursday changed it all. As I went to get changed for training, I was attacked from behind and thrown to the ground by some of these monsters. They pinned me down and farted on my face whilst chanting “let’s feed the Spanish Donkey some beef stew”. It was the most humiliating and degrading moment of my life at that point. I thought the worst of it was over, until they turned me over and began spanking my bare buttocks with wet towels whilst primitively chanting in poor Spanish in an attempt to mock my nationality and heritage. Afterwards I was told that this was an initiation test and that I had passed and was welcome to the team. I did not return.

  11. @A, I hate to break it to you, but if you are male you ARE privileged. This is not an assumption. If you are a woman you have a much higher percentage change of being sexually assaulted. That’s not sexism, it’s just fact. Being male protects you from the likelihood of this event. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but you have a better chance. That’s privilege.

  12. I think there is a problem, looking back with hindsight. During school we all tried to find our identities and much of that is tied to what is popular at school i.e. rugby. The thought which has come to me over recent days/months and along with conversations with others; could I tell these two criminals, Jeff and Dylan, would commit these crimes from interactions with them at school? I don’t think I could. Was the culture as a whole toxic; probably. On a couple of occasions, I remember being shown photos and videos of people from my year and the year above. Why people had these I don’t know (and I didn’t ask) but did this happen, yes. It is not enough to not partake but we should have called out these people at that moment. But because we would have lost face we probably didn’t, I know I didn’t, I just “politely” looked and moved on with my life without thinking what consequences that would have for that person’s life. I didn’t go on the bus journeys or rugby tours, so I don’t know if this ran any deeper. I have wondered if we are afraid to examine our own previous behaviour. I know I find it difficult!

    Apply this to female members of your family or possibly to your own children. We as men need to perform better and call out this behaviour, not protect people who are performing it! How did people act when they heard people talking about their sister or mum, they got pissed! Yet those people would later be looking at people who they possibly shared a class with as sexual objects as there was an explicit video or photo of them. It may not be rugby or Regent which was the problem, but I think we can all agree there was a problem. We may not be able willing to point it out but there was a problem.

    Are some of us just the “high school American football stars” who never made it to college and live on past glories in our hometowns?

    I remember going to box and seeing a “star rugby player” from another school and people having to talk to them? Does this happen with other sports? I don’t know.

    This article is not saying all 1XV rugby players commit sexual crimes. The past two great pieces of journalism have made me look back at my time at school and university. At times it is not pleasant, but we need to do it to improve. Please do the same, we can do better and we need to do better!

  13. Didn’t play Rugby for Regent for very long but I saw a fair amount of shit in various groupchats. A small amount of guys would be posting pictures they ‘scored’ from girls and acting like hot shit.

    Many people, including myself were involved in Rugby in the school due to a love of the sport. However as with everything there always exists those who use it for status, influence and some meagre amount of power to exert over others. We can see that in many other groups of people, including areas that lack the toxic masculinity you are pinning sex crimes on such as the makeup industry.

    I don’t believe it is specifically Rugby that allows for this, but instead that it was just the main and most visible outlet for these people in Regent.
    In the end I think it’s a lack of education that allows these sort of people to abuse the positions they are in. It’s gotten better but we still need to push to fully educate kids on sex, consent and how and when to come forward to report what they have seen. I know I was never told about how the pictures posted in this chat were as harmful as they were, and I certainly didn’t know who was best to turn to.

  14. Gemma tends to only provide genuine responses to female victims and will certainly not entertain a debate with a male who raises valid points.

    As an actual journalist, the initial article regarding Jeff Anderson was well written, however this piece appears to be personal and contradictory in places. I can’t help but feel as though Gemma is trying to use female victims to further her career. If she is to do so, I suggest engaging with a broader audience.

    Good luck in your future Gemma, it may not be in journalism or law.

    1. Hello Deidre,

      As many of the female victims who have commented on this article will attest, they are very much glad I’m shedding light on this matter, have a read through the comments and you’ll see that. You speak of me being contradictory yet contradict yourself by saying I’m using female victims to further my career at the same time as saying I won’t have a career, so which one is it?

      And thanks for your well wishes, you’re right; it won’t be in journalism or law. After working as a journalist for 5 years in various publications, I’ve realised it’s not for me (as you don’t get to publish the truth) therefore, I’m doing an interdisciplinary PhD next year in trans-generational trauma, working between the law, politics and sociology departments, at Goldsmiths University. So I will be working mostly in academia doing freelance investigative journalism work when I find the time.

      Additionally, you claim that you’re an ‘actual journalist’ (I assume you’re trying to suggest that I, somehow, am not) yet you’ve used your work email address when leaving your comments. I won’t expose your identity, however, as an ‘actual journalist’ I recommend that if you want to comment and mock my career that you do so with anonymity, as I’ve been able to search your name as see that you haven’t written for your publication for a number of years. Furthermore, as an ‘actual journalist’ operating in the digital age (as you don’t have a website I assume you’re still working only in print?) it’s really wise to not use your work email if you’re trying to remain anonymous, which I assume you are as you haven’t posted here with your full name? Just a little tip if you’re hoping to transition into digital media any time soon.

      Best of luck with your journalism and thank you for your concern.

  15. I’ve heard some many stories from that school from my husband who went there (he was one of the nerds) one day one of the rugby lads saw him kiss his gf , the rugby lad then grabbed the girl pushed her against the locker and said this is how it’s done and forcibly snogged the girl in the middle of school!! I went to school in Carrickfergus so the only thing we had to fear was sectarian kids that I still look out for on the 10 o’clock news

  16. Its quite difficult to ‘distil your rage’ when your daughter has been beaten to within an inch of her life and then relentlessly stalked as mine has. This is not about you it is about us. flippant comments like this are an insult to the victims of these people. If you have something relevant to say maybe lay back on the sarcasm and you will be listened top.

    1. @A so you don’t think there is a worrying trend at all, with men in sport and “God complexes”? I believe groups like this, not just limited to rugby players (but in this case it is so i feel it’s a relevant point), are at risk of becoming entitled and have an inflated sense of self worth. This poses a risk to women (and men) who they decide they are entitled to using how they wish.
      The male sporting world NEEDS to address this trend of their participants abusing women at a higher rate than the general public. I think you can try to pretend there’s no link with sport and sexual abuse all you like but it’s really not backed up by statistics. It is an issue. It needs addressed.


  17. I didn’t go to Regent, but I went to an all girls grammar school in Belfast (left in 2012). I briefly dated a popular CCB rugby boy, and I will never forget the time he said this to me: “I don’t understand why girls wouldn’t enjoy rape. At the end of the day, it’s still sex. Right?” Verbatim. He’s definitely forgotten this statement, but I never will.
    Thank you for this brilliant piece of writing!

  18. The fact that there is an overwhelming number of boys commenting on this with positive memories of Regent and rugby but quite a lot of females with different memories or sexual, abusive and predatory behaviour just enforces the argument Gemma is making.
    I’m from class of 2010 – my memories include being bullied throughout school by a group of rugby boys including Dylan. When it was reported, I was brought to a room with three of the boys and we all had to apologise to each other even though I had done nothing wrong. These boys had smashed test tubes into my blazer pockets to try to cut my hands, tore up my artwork for my AsLevel, cut my pony tail, tripped me down the stairs, broke into my locker and stole school books, made fun of me for having second hand items, made fun of my body shape, the list can go on.
    I bumped into one of these lads in my work in recent years and took a panic attack, having to explain to my colleagues why humiliated me.
    What happened to me in Regent will stay with me. Just because it didn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The lad culture in Regent at the time was toxic.

    1. I understand that not everyone had the same experience of Regent as I did – I’m so glad that they didn’t. However, it infuriates me that other very personal experiences are being undermined by individuals getting their backs up because you’ve called out the culture which was prevalent that this time! I honestly HATED Regent but my family mostly attended here and I didn’t feel there was another option for me.

      It is so important that teachers, parents and guardians get it right when these boys are at an impressionable age. It is their responsibility to educate. Not every boy that was a rugby player bullied me (only 3 of them) but there was a silence among a lot of the rest when it happened that made me feel powerless.

      You have a voice and a platform and I am so glad that you’re using it.

  19. Sadly this isnt just a problem in Regent. Bangor Grammar School faced the same issue but it was kept under wraps. Most of the rugby boys would engage in some form of sexual assault over their years in BGS. From a young age they garner their feeling of superiority and the school encourages it to no end. From getting honours blazers to the unspoken rule of the rugby lads getting their car parking space closest to the school and the boys getting away with murder which other students would be severely punished for. The parties themselves usually were made up of only BGS and Glenlola pupils (once again the popular /rugby ones that referred to themselves as “the top team”): both of which never really were taught about sexual health or consent, we barely got a talk about puberty in my years in the school and biology only covered the anatomical side of sex rather than the emotional or consensual aspects. I feel this leads to a lack of knowledge on the topic, coupled with the superiority complex many rugby lads develop which then leads to them taking advantage of inebriated young women and commanding them to their sexual desires. It sickens me that this is so ingrained in schools that are meant to be seen as somewhat prestigious. There is an underlying problem that never was addressed even by the senior management team. To this day I know of ‘men’ in my year at school that would engage and encourage this sort of behaviour. As the Bangor Grammar motto goes, justice is tenacious and there will be a time when they are brought to justice for their actions. I hope anyone who was affected by the class of 2018 will find solace in knowing that these monster’s days are numbered.

  20. Hi. Although it is clear there is a certain amount of toxicity within regent culture and the cases you addressed do need to be dealt with more thoroughly , I don’t see how relating it to rugby and regent as a whole was necessary. These cases seem like more based on a % of individual personalities within a large group and doesn’t reflect the whole system, generalising these cases from years ago can do nothing but damage a school that has drastically changed from years past. Bad people will always be bad regardless of whether they play a sport or not and I hope this doesn’t discourage people to not partake in this sport which has brought me and many others a lot of joy.
    I apologise if this is a double up comment as I have not used this app before.

    1. If it’s drastically changed then there won’t be a problem.

      This article is clearly relating to the environment in which these men were brought up. The 100’s of women that have taken the time to message me to thank me for writing this, from across a range of age groups, shows me that there was a systemic problem within the sporting culture specifically in grammar schools in NI. If you don’t see that then you’ve clearly never been on the receiving end and for that you are very lucky.

      I highly doubt that anyone will read this and not take part in sport as a result. However, perhaps someone reading this will speak to their children about consent or how they feel under pressure etc.

      Thank you Adam for taking the time to engage critically and open a debate and not just hurl abuse or try to undermine my message as many have.

      1. Thank you as well, however, and I do not mean to critique, but potentially stating off the bat that these men are long gone from the school maybe could help in people’s judgement as I have seen some shares where people question if these are recent events or not. I only say these from a position of someone who deeply loved my time at this school and would love others to share in that.

      2. Thank you, I’ve added that to the article now so that people understand this isn’t talking about Regent currently, although we can’t be certain of that, but I’ve made that amendment.

  21. A (presumably) well meaning but misguided article. It’d be convenient for people who think like you that all institutions like school rugby and the like and horrid breeding grounds for “toxic masculinity” and that we need feminism to somehow weed this out of young men.
    In truth, there is no such thing as “toxic masculinity”, at least not in the way you and many others seem to define it. I went to RHS myself, and I knew many of the rugby players around my age the entire time. Now in fairness we are talking about a different group of young men, as from what I can surmise you’re five or six years older than I am. But my point is this; some of them were arseholes, and while I have no knowledge of any of them committing awful acts like these three you’ve mentioned, I’d go as far as to brand them “bad people”, at least in my eyes.
    Many of the young men who played rugby were my friends. Good, honest boys. And the rest were just… normal. The only thing they had in common, really, was the fact that they all played rugby.
    It’s almost as if it’s not these institutions that at fault. In it’s simplest essence, one might say that bad people will always turn out bad, regardless of their surroundings. These men you’ve written about would have behaved in this way whether they were on the firsts, never played rugby, were wealthy, were poor.. It does not matter. Using phrases like toxic masculinity simple shifts the blame onto all men and the way they live their lives. It makes us all feel as though we have done something wrong, simply by being men.
    There is no excuse to behave like these men did, but equally there is no excuse for people like you to apportion blame to wherever feminist doctrine, personal grievance or just misguided justice decides that the blame rests. It reeks of contempt, and sadly.. jealousy.
    Articles like this one, while I’m sure you meant well and to highlight the heinous acts of these men, only serve to hinder progress to a truly equal society. Instead of focusing on these very real issues and their cause, a phony “cause” for them has been decided and set in stone. Toxic masculinity is no more a problem in society now than it ever was, which is to say, never. Until recently, masculinity was seen as a virtue, not something to be ashamed of or browbeaten for displaying. And yet, historically, acts like these still took place. It seems as if there is no direct correlation between society at large’s attitude to masculinity and the incidence of acts such as these.
    What is damaging in the extreme, however, is society’s progressive and insidious castration of the traditional male. In closing;
    It’s fine to be a traditionally masculine man, it’s fine to not. You can be a good member of society either way.
    It’s not fine to make out like all men have this horrible capability within them, and it’s not fine to pedal a narrative that makes many young men feel ashamed or scared of their masculinty.
    And it’s certainly never ok to behave like these men did.
    That said, thank you for the article and apologies for the scattergun, on the fly nature of this response to it. I’d be happy to talk more thouroughly with you if that’s something you’d be interested in.
    This is the second time I’ve posted this. I hope it was user error on my part the first time.

    1. Nathan, I have said in this article that a huge part of the problem is these men are told they have to be traditionally masculine, or not. That’s the issue, proven by the fact someone else has commented calling Dylan a ‘spice boy.’ Can you imagine what else people must have said to him in school if someone’s willing to make that comment here?

      Dylan allegedly raped his girlfriend because he thought she looked at another man on the beach. Do you think it’s possible that he had issues with insecurity? Do you think it’s possible he was bullied for ‘being a spice boy?’ Do you think that maybe if the binaries of what a man can and cannot be were not so strict in my school that perhaps Dylan wouldn’t have felt like he had to be a certain person and perhaps wouldn’t have been as angry and aggressive as he turned out to be?

      I appreciate that you knew loads of good men, I love men. I love masculinity in all it’s weird and wonderful forms. What I don’t love is the way in which young boys in my school were made to feel like they could do whatever they wanted and get away with it, as was the case. The people jumping to defend rugby are not realising that I’ve said on a number of occasions that rugby isn’t the issue, rather it’s the way that rugby allowed these boys to feel like superheros when really they were just children who needed to grow up without feeling like they were untouchable.

      1. I don’t think that’s the case. Certainly I can only speak to my experience in that same school,but certain guys on the rugby team were indeed amongst the most popular people in the year. But by no means did it mean they were put on a pedestal to do whatever they wanted. You seemed to have missed the point I was driving at in that it was not being rugby players that made these people feel untouchable; the feeling of not being accountable to your crimes is not because of any environmental factors so trivial as being in a club.
        To use an extreme example, Ted Bundy exhibited such behaviour, thinking that he was simply “too smart to be caught”. He’d have been that way regardless of whether or not he was a top athlete in school. To use a less extreme example; to this day, two of my closest friends played for RHS rugby at various levels. They have confirmed that they, nor any other member of the team that they know of, was ever made to feel like a “superhero”. At the end of the day, it’s school sports, and I don’t think any of the staff ever fellated the egos of any of their players to such a degree that they thought they were “untouchable”.
        Perhaps there is an issue of people inflating their self importance due to minor scholastic or athletic achievement, but I would shrink from labelling this the cause of such awful acts as the people you write about have perpetrated. But if a man has it in him to commit crimes such as those you wrote about, it matters little that he played rugby, it even matters little he’s a man; it was always within that human to commit those acts, regardless of what sport they played at school.

      2. Are you removing comments? My response to your reply seems to have disappeared. I really hope this is an error and not apathy or censorship on your part.

  22. Regardless of the message you are trying to convey in this article, you need to get someone to proofread your work as it is littered with errors. It will seriously undermine your credibility.

    1. You are clearly speaking from a position of privilege that you can brush aside the content of this piece with a mere ‘regardless of the message.’ I’ve had over 100 messages in 48 hours from women who have experienced vile forms of abuse from the men mentioned here. I’m not interested in my ‘credibility’ – or what you deem is a standard of writing that makes me credible. When I worked for a professional publications (as I have many) I did have a team to edit and proof read my work, as all staffing journalists do. I am publishing this myself, for free, without a team behind me to check my work. When I am not replying in-depth to the countless women that have messaged me (often this takes 30-45 mins of conversation because I feels it’s important for their healing to know that someone takes them seriously and is willing to listen to them) I am going through it and editing and re-editing the work when I get the chance. I wouldn’t normally take the time to respond to this sort of petty critique but it’s very indicative of a certain type of person who puts their need to disclose their opinion at any opportunity over their sense of compassion or empathy. You’re commenting anonymously, I’m putting myself out here, my full name disclosed, to try and draw attention to the very real abuse that’s happening to women in our home and you have the time to comment on my credibility? When you publish your own work, when you reveal who you are, then perhaps I’ll take what you have to say a bit more seriously but until then, please, find a better way to spend your evenings.

  23. Class of 2016 here, I would like to start by saying that this rape culture is not only negatively affecting females. As a young man attending regent I was once sexually assaulted by a well known member of the coaching staff. All I can remember is being told to get off the ruddy first pitches and woke up in the Royal with a size 5 Gilbert match ball stuck in my anus and a 1st XV sock around my penis

    1. Have you watched the promo video, or have you ever watched professional rugby? If so you’ll see that it’s very obvious how young these boys are in comparison to professionals, which is the point I was making. But by all means try and paint me out to be a creep. I would point out that the only person taking issue with that observation has been you, so I think that says more about where your mind is at than mine.

  24. I don’t really get the link to rugby and more broadly any sport at school. All ‘popular’ people in school will grow up this way, being revered and idolised and often turn into maladjusted adults. I think that’s true for both men and women. It can even be seen in your examples by the fact that one of them didn’t even play sport. I think it’s definitely a good point but I wouldn’t narrow it to such an extent. I’d also be interested to know what you think would help? After all it is mainly their fellow schoolmates doing all the idolising. I think that would be a pretty hard thing to change

    1. Hi Soph, if you don’t get the link then there’s nothing else I can say. It’s not my job to re-word the article in the comments so that those that didn’t ‘get it’ first time round can have it written in terminology that they will understand. Additionally, it’s not my job to teach you about consent training, sex education and unlearning toxic masculinity. All things that will contribute to the end of this rape culture which school sports encourage. If you wish to research these topics and concepts in your own time, feel free. Thanks.

      1. Maybe I should rephrase my comment, it’s not that I don’t understand your point it’s that a disagree with it in principle and in scope. I think it’s a rather narrow minded, one-dimensional commentary on the situations that led to these crimes. Your talk of consent training among others does nothing to quell the problems of idolatry and entitlement that you talk about. Hope I’ve made myself more clear.

    1. Hi. Although it is clear there is a certain amount of toxicity within rugby culture and the cases you addressed do need to be dealt with, I don’t see how relating it to rugby and Regent as a whole was necessary. These cases seem like more based on a % of individual personalities within a large group and doesn’t reflect the whole system, generalising these cases from years ago can do nothing but damage a school that has drastically changed from years past.

  25. Dylan was in my year and a lot of my classes when he moved to Regent. In my opinion, he was definitely outwardly predatory and when I first heard that he had been arrested for, I wasn’t shocked at all.
    I won’t go into the details because it is another persons story to tell but he was showing signs of being a sexual predator as a teenager which Regent failed to deal with at all!
    I had hoped that Spain would have given him the maximum sentence (35 years) but the coward plead down and received only 9 years. The woman he attacked will live with the mental scarring for a lifetime.

  26. That definitely tallies with my experience. There were also girls in my year (I was a few above you) who went out with adult men from about 14 onwards. I also only really had interest from those a few years older. It’s interesting because I was definitely not on the romantic radar of the boys in my own year (understatement of the century haha) I’m not quite sure of the point I’m making, but it’s interesting given the context.

  27. I want to thank you for this. I was class of 2018 and I LOVED LOVED LOVED REGENT. But there was a massive problem with the rugby boys. Sexual assault with my own eyes seen from we were THIRTEEN…. yes. Thirteen. I guarantee it still goes on as these ‘men’ are now 20-21.

  28. Don’t forget the weird (in hindsight) age gap relationships. How many people did you know who went out with older pupils, not just the year above, but sometimes three or four years above? There were a surprising amount, considering were talking about middle class Northern Ireland, in the 2000s,not 1950s America. Most teenagers now think it’s creepy to go out with someone in a different year, never mind three. I’ve spoken to plenty of people in a similar age group from all over the UK, and just from what I pick up in conversation, this wasn’t something that was common in other UK schools the way it seemed to be here

  29. Wow, more lies. You attended these parties and hung out with the biggest load of tramps. You were there. Everyone knows it, and dozens of people I know can confirm. Bragging about hanging out with the rugby lads.

    Trying to act like they care about the victims. You have made this entire case about yourself for attention, making a mockery of the victims.

    The Ulster Rugby players were innocent, but facts don’t matter when social justice warriors start frothing at the mouth.

    1. James, if this is you then you are so much more stupid than we even imagined. This article does not in any way make mockery of the victims and you are making a mockery of yourself and not for the first time I imagine.

      1. I know one of the victims personally, and she has confirmed that she in no way does this make anyone look bad except the offenders. Please stop being a predator apologist. Are you seriously trying to bully the author for who she hung out with in secondary school? Why exactly do you think “tramp” or “whore” is a good insult when we’re talking about convicted serial sex offenders?

  30. Jeff Anderson, Dylan Rogers and James McQuillan

    Three friends who all knew each other within a two-year age span in Regent House who have been convicted of physically or sexually abusing women.


  31. And people wonder why we need feminism. Rape culture exists. The pattern here is clear to see. At my school, Glenlola collegiate (I left in 2010), we were never taught about consent. We were taught abstinence (the school employed a speaker who glued pieces of paper together and ripped them apart to show us what having sex would do to our souls), went to pro-life talks, and were warned by the police never to send pictures of ourselves. That was the height of our sexual education, bar the biology classes which solely focused on bodily changes. I wonder why consent is not a much bigger factor in schools. Instead of teaching women to not have sex, maybe teach boys to respect women and respect their wishes. People accuse feminists of being “angry women”…..how on earth can we not be angry.

    1. Thank you for this! A close friend of mine in school sent her bf intimate photos, as he did her, she got charged by the police, couldn’t go on holiday to America and all of the girls were brought into a talk about respectability and sending photos, the boys weren’t. The sexism is just revolting in these grammar schools.

      1. If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. I feel parents who are looking to send their kids to these schools need to inquire as to the school’s stance on teaching consent.

    2. Would appreciate if this was just to teach everyone to respect each other and teach the ideas of consent throughout school to people of all genders. To suggest it’s only boys that need to change is an incredible disservice to men like myself who have been victim to sexual assault at the hands of females. Not taking away from your very valid point about the teaching in schools being incredibly backwards but just feel the need to point out that this education on consent needs to be for all.

      1. The article is not suggesting that women never sexually assault people, of course that happens too and all sexual harassment/assault is awful. This article is specifically talking about the issues of rape culture in male sports teams and celebrity culture. I could say that this article hasn’t mentioned that people with disabilities are far more likely to be sexually assualted than able-bodied people, but that’s not what this article is about. You get me?

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