“When I woke up, my parents shoved the article in my face,” says a student at Dulwich College, a well-regarded and historic private school in the leafy suburbs of South London. “That was definitely a sign that this was way bigger than I expected.”

Last month, in bedrooms and conservatories and living rooms across England, on Snapchat and Instagram and WhatsApp and TikTok, there were thousands of similar awakenings. And they all concerned a single topic: a noxious, ingrained, seemingly inescapable culture of rape and sexual assault spanning the entire British private-school sector.