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A university football team are being hailed as 'heroes' after acting as chaperones for any female students too scared to walk home alone at night, after seeing posts about a hoax called 'National Rape Day'.
Warnings were issued by schools and universities as the abhorrent hoax swept across social media, with some videos claiming sexual assault would be 'legal' on 24 April.
Women were urged to protect themselves in the event that anyone had taken the hoax seriously, and Ben Marett, a 22-year-old Cardiff University student, sat furiously racking his brains for ideas to help his female friends.
Determined to do something to protect fellow female students when they attended parties at the weekend, Ben enlisted the help of 20 of his football teammates to act as chaperones to ensure women got home safely.
Together with his friends, the business and human resource management student operated a text service from 9pm on Saturday night to 5am on Sunday morning, where women could request a chaperone - helping 30 students make it home safely.
The team now hopes to inspire more sports societies across other universities to follow suit. The young men won praise from dozens of girls and were described as 'angels', while the mum of one female student 'cried with happiness' over their act of kindness.
Ben, originally from Wimbledon, south London, said: "When I heard about this [National Rape Day] hoax, I thought, 'This is absolutely horrible.'
"I knew my ex-girlfriend was going to a party on Saturday. I text her, saying, 'I'll happily walk you there and back anytime.' We were talking to each other saying, 'There's got to be something we could do.'"
After checking in with Mia, Ben decided to message his team's group chat, asking who would help him with his plans.
Soon enough, 20 members of the team vowed to give up their Saturday evening to join him on patrol, despite being in the middle of important exam revision.
Ben continued: "I said, 'Since I'm staying in on Saturday, why don't I get a few of the boys from the football club to help me?'
"I put a post in the group chat and said, 'Gents, on Saturday, I'm going to put a post out to say I'll be chaperoning girls and walking round the streets in my red top, with my student ID on so everyone knows who I am, to make them feel safe, even if this is a hoax.'
"The response from them has been incredible. My plan is to have four groups of five walking around in their red top. Whenever we get a text or a call, I'll send off two people to go and chaperone people while the rest of us are patrolling.
"I think we'll be up all night doing it. My initial thought was maybe 9pm until 5am. The thing that scares me is going to bed and missing one. We want to make sure everyone knows they can be safe. I think this is a small step I can take to try and help."
After posting about his plans on social media, Ben claims he received messages of support from girls who believe the service will make them feel safer.
Ben said: "I've had some really nice messages from girls in Cardiff. What we're doing isn't ground-breaking, it's such a small gesture, but it makes a difference to so many people.
"Even if it's a hoax, this is a problem on every night out. Regardless of whether it is 'National Rape Day', we'll be out there. I've had other lads reach out to me asking if they can help, but just for the first night, I'm keeping it with the lads I know at football because I know I can account for them all."
Great effort, LADs. But let's be clear about something that Ben and his pals would surely agree with - this service shouldn't need to exist.
In light of content online referring to the National Rape Day hoax, Cardiff University urged anyone 'concerned about their immediate safety' to contact the police or university security.
A spokesperson from the uni said: "We have been made aware of this deeply disturbing content and understand this is causing distress.
"This content could also be triggering to anyone who has experienced sexual assault or rape, which is deeply concerning.
"We want to make it absolutely clear: we are taking these matters seriously. We have passed this information to colleagues at South Wales Police and University security are also aware.
"Whilst we have been advised that the origin is a hoax and we want to reassure our student community, we fully appreciate the negative impact on our students' perceived sense of safety.
"We take a zero-tolerance approach to violence and abuse, including threats of violence. Anyone who is behaving in this way or supporting behaviour will be subject to disciplinary procedures.
"We would encourage anyone with information about individuals engaged in any such discussions to come forward with this information.
"If anyone feels threatened or concerned about their immediate safety, they should contact the police or University security."
South Wales Police have been contacted for comment.
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