Tackling sexual violence

Email from wellbeing and community officer to all students.

This is an email from Lavanya Rajendran, wellbeing and community officer, which she sent to all students on Friday 05 November.

TW // sexual violence

You have probably heard about the increase in reports of drink spiking and injections in recent weeks. This type of illegal activity happens to our students. I also know they are subjected to many other types of sexual violence and harassment.

This must stop. As a students’ union, I want us to do something about it, but I cannot do this without you. Preventing sexual violence is not the responsibility of the person subjected to sexual violence. As a student community, it is our responsibility to help keep each other safe. We all have a part to play in stopping sexual violence.

How to help

The first thing you can do to help is to complete the Consent Matters training course (three 20-minute online modules). You can learn about sexual consent, building healthier relationships and being an active bystander who looks out for others. It is not mandatory, but I hope that you will be willing to do it if you are serious about helping us to solve this problem. It is not targeted at any particular group of students; it is for everybody.

I know that most incidents of sexual violence and harassment are not reported and it is hard to tackle the problem if we do not know what it happening. The University has a reporting system which allows students to report incidents of sexual violence and harassment either anonymously or to ask for support. Please use this system to report any incident you know about because this will help us to build our understanding of what is happening to our students.

You can also join our campaign group which will be campaigning for change on sexual violence. Let us know here if you are interested in this.

I have already asked the University to do the following things which I believe will help to create a safer and more inclusive environment for our students.

1. Consider whether consent, bystander intervention and other similar training should be mandatory

This could be for all students or possibly for students in a position of authority, e.g. student group committee members, sports club committee members and team captains, scholars, course reps. If we are serious about tackling this problem, we should all be doing what we can to demonstrate that. I would also like the University to work with us to consider how we can maximise participation by students in these courses even if it cannot be made mandatory.

2. Publish the outcomes of disciplinary hearings

It is well known that one of the main reasons why students do not report incidents to the University is that they do not believe anything will be done. I want the University to be able to reassure students that it will act on allegations and is serious about stopping these behaviours. Reports on the outcomes of investigations and disciplinary hearings would be anonymised, but publishing them would go a long way towards showing the University’s commitment.

3. Employ more staff to work on sexual violence

Although the University provides support for students reporting sexual violence and harassment, it does not employ any specialist sexual violence staff. I want the University to fund staff who would lead the culture change required in the University, who would deliver training for students and staff, and who would support students and staff who are subjected to sexual violence.

Finally, I know this email will not fix all our problems, but it is a start. Please try to take the steps outlined above. I would also like to hear from any of you who have comments or questions on this subject. You can reply to this email or contact me at l.rajendran@uel.ac.uk

Best wishes,
Lavanya Rajendran
Wellbeing and Community Officer, UEL Students' Union