By Millie Rose Rudman, BA Study of Religions
I have been fortunate enough to work with the incredible people who have facilitated and organised them over the last two years, and think it is fair to say that this is not enough
The statistics surrounding rape and sexual violence towards young people are astounding. According to the NUS’s ‘Hidden Mark’s report, one in seven respondents to their survey ad experienced serious physical or sexual assault while a student. One in three experienced verbal or non-verbal harassment on Campus. This is just one report among many which demonstrates the issue of sexual violence on university campuses as a growing global trend. Two years ago, the SOAS SU wanted to change this, and hence developed the Enough is Enough campaign in an effort to combat different forms of harassment on campus. Perhaps most prominently visible in the form of the consent workshops, which, for the last two years, all new students have had to attend as part of their enrolment. I have been fortunate enough to work with the incredible people who have facilitated and organised them over the last two years, and think it is fair to say that this is not enough.
Monique Bell, the Co-Ordinator for this year’s campaign, demonstrates the ongoing issues at our university. In 2015, the year before consent workshops were introduced, Fresher’s Fortnight saw 9 reports of harassment and sexual violence to the SU. The first year of the workshops, this increased to 233%. In 2017, this increased further by 176%. In two years, that is a 409% increase. This increase in reporting is directly linked to the consent workshops- the fact that, for many of our students, this is the first type of Sexual Education they have had, let alone Consent Education. These reports are directly to our incredible SU Co-Presidents, who are overworked and underpaid, and perhaps even unprepared to receive these reports. This year, Co-President Dimitri Cautain and Sophie Bennett have spearheaded a campaign for Welfare Contacts at Late Licenses and other events. So far, they have provided invaluable help and comfort for many of our students. However, this does not go far enough for social events at SOAS. This training needs to extend further, with bar, shop and security staff all undergoing the same training. This does not even begin to address the need for our lecturers, admin staff and beyond to participate in these workshops, and to include Trigger Warnings when needed.
While the SU works tirelessly to develop the campaign, and bring an end to sexually based violence on our campus, it would appear that any other avenue of support for students from the School are difficult and often difficult to obtain. The Student Services at SOAS have asked students to ‘refrain from using this service this week as we are understaffed and oversubscribed’. For many students who might have experienced a sexual assault, rape or physical assault on campus, they will need immediate help. However, waiting times for counselling services can take months, thus meaning students get caught up in ‘SOAS Admin’ in trying to get help, rather than focusing on their wellbeing. Instead, it has been suggested that students in need of immediate help speak to the Samaritans- a service, which itself struggles with helping everyone, just as the Students Services do. This is in no way a disapproval of Student Services- they do amazing work- but are severely underfunded it would appear. If SOAS has seen a massive increase in reports of sexually based violence on their campus, not to even mention the increased reports of racist, homophobic, transphobic and sexist attacks, it begs the question as to how our administration expects this service to cater for everyone.
We need the School to support the SU in their campaign, and Student Services in providing support for those affected, and not just use Enough is Enough as a publicity stunt
Therefore, I implore Valerie Amos and SOAS management to do more to combat growing trend of sexually based violence. In 2016, Amos wrote a piece for the Guardian saying that at SOAS ‘we will act to stop sexual violence on campus’. As along as these workshops continue to be funded, and are grown I believe we can make a difference. With funding received by SOAS from HEFCE, Cautain is currently working with students to develop the campaign even further, including taking it online. However, I believe the school is yet to properly deal with these issues. We have seen increased reporting, but not increased support. We need the School to support the SU in their campaign, and Student Services in providing support for those affected, and not just use Enough is Enough as a publicity stunt. But, at this present moment I thank the SU for their tireless campaigning, Facilitators for their dedication to the workshops and providing support, Monique Bell for her supreme organisational skills, and lastly, the Victim-Survivors who endured this- our community deserves support and safety, and a system that works for you.