Posted on Thu 25 May 2017 at 12:23 by Christopher Carter
CW: contains discussion of sexual violence and assault
This time last year, in my capacity as Women’s Officer, I presented a paper to Warwick’s Equality and Diversity Committee on the need for a working group to be set up to explore the many ways in which the University has failed survivors of sexual violence in the past, and also how we get to a position whereby survivors can disclose their experiences while feeling both safe and respected. A year later, I am extremely proud of how much has been achieved through the collaborative groundwork laid by the SU and University.
As my time as Campaigns & Welfare Officer draws to a close, I wanted to share with you the progress of these efforts:
- Independent Sexual Violence Advisor – in Term 1, the Vice-Chancellor and I visited Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC) to meet the incredible advisors based there and learn more about the ways in which such agencies are supporting Warwick students independent of University involvement. Of the many ways CRASAC can support survivors who turn to them, their Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) are crucial in helping those survivors who want to report their abuse, enter their case into the criminal justice system, or need an advocate to talk on their behalf. I was elected on a manifesto of getting an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) based on campus and, as a result of this meeting, it was formally agreed that the University and CRASAC would form an agreement whereby an ISVA will be accessible to students who need their services. The details of this are being refined, and I hope to have news on the ISVA’s set-up and arrival in the coming month.
- Sexual Violence Policy and Prevention Group – following my presentation to the Equality and Diversity Committee, it was resolved to set up this group, which consists of stakeholders from the SU, Wellbeing Support Services, Counselling, the Residential Life Team, Security Services, CRASAC and academic staff. The group has met four times to date, and has worked on disseminating information to incoming students on consent via ‘Pause, Play, Stop’ resources, reviewing how best to include international students in our prevention strategies, and sharing good practice from other institutions to inform how we can best prevent sexual abuse in our community and support survivors when it does happen. Members of the group, including myself, have also attended multiple conferences and training events on how to best achieve an institution-wide approach to tackling sexual violence. I must thank Hareem Ghani (NUS Women’s Officer), Ian Munton (Keele University), Emma-Marie Okoroafor (Warwick SU Women’s Officer) for their time, advice and steer on this issue.
- HEFCE Catalyst Fund – the aforementioned group has also worked together to write a bid to a fund made available by the Higher Education Funding Council England on addressing sexual violence. Over 60 universities and colleges were ultimately awarded a share of £2.45 million, with Warwick being one of them! I wrote up the SU’s input in the bid, which focused on the implementation of the ‘Intervention Initiative’ into academic departments. We are hopeful that this module will be delivered to every incoming first-year in one academic department in 2017/18, and then scaled up to reach every first-year by 2020/2021.
The Catalyst money is also to be spent on consultancy services from CRASAC, training for staff and the creation of a new University post dedicated to working on all of the above.
It is clear to me that this is a starting-point, rather than an endgame. The University still has more it can do to fully affirm its commitment to supporting survivors and truly embedding a zero-tolerance culture but, as I leave, I can say that I have full faith in the Vice-Chancellor and his team to make the necessary changes so that no survivor at Warwick feels let down, or cannot continue their studies. In the coming years, we need to see a large-scale review of how students report their abuse and how they’re dealt with when they do so. We need the many pockets of the University to join the dots so that we’re all on the same page when co-ordinating a response to sexual abuse. We also need a meaningful commitment to preventing abuse, from departments, academics, support staff, societies, sports clubs, and everyone welcomed into our community. I hope that these measures represent the first steps toward achieving those goals.
For more on the Intervention Initiative, please see Education Officer HOPE WORSDALE’s blog post HERE.
For more on EMMA-MARIE OKOROAFOR’s achievements for students during her year as Women’s Officer, please see her blog post HERE.