Sexual violence and harassment of many forms plague our campuses and the wider community. 68 % of women students have experienced verbal or physical sexual harassment in and around their university. 1 in 5 women in England and Wales have experienced sexual assault since the age of 16. Approximately 12,000 men are also raped in England and Wales alone every year; other forms of harassment such as racism are also increasingly on the rise in society and on our campuses. As a movement of students we must combat this wherever possible and make sure our campuses are safe and welcoming to everybody. As a Guild we want to make sure that principles of anti-harassment are embedded into our institutions and campus culture.
Universities’ New Approach
Until 2016, the guidance given to universities on dealing with sexual misconduct suggested that they should only take action in the event of a successful criminal prosecution. Following a thorough review by Universities UK and NUS new guidance was created. As of 2017, universities will now investigate allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment between students regardless of whether the police are involved and disciplinary action can be taken. Sexual misconduct and harassment have now been added into the student contract, violation of which can lead to disciplinary measures. In short, the University is now obligated, regardless of whether the police are involved, to support students who report incidents of violence or harassment and investigate and potentially discipline students for committing such acts. You can read more about the new approach and support available from the University here.
In 2017 the University received funding to support the creation and implementation of a 2-hour Bystander Intervention workshop aimed at training student leaders to combat sexual misconduct and other forms of harassment. Whilst that funding was time-limited, we have subsequently trained several members of full-time staff here in the Guild to be able to deliver that training internally going forward. This year, we are training hundreds of student leaders (starting with society committee members and course reps) to be ‘active bystanders’. This training will empower students to tackle sexual misconduct and harassment of any form, both on and off campus, and train students to know how to report such incidents and seek support.
Call It Out
Alongside this roll-out of training, the Guild will be re-launching our Call it Out campaign this year. The campaign will seek to:
This year we will also be incorporating digital harassment into the campaign, to take into account the increasing amount of time we spend online. In addition, we are working with the University to research online culture on campus and are feeding into research that will help future campaigners tackle online harassment more effectively. As part of the project, the researchers are currently looking to interview students who have been affected by online harassment. The interviews are completely confidential and all information will be made anonymous in the research. If you would like to take part please contact Dr Fiona O'Rourke on firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you will get involved in the training and the campaign, if you have any questions speak to your Guild Officers or our fantastic Advice Team if you want support.