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Statement from the Union’s Full-time Officers on sexual violence protest

Content note: Sexual violence

We commend students standing up and speaking out about the issue of sexual violence on International Women’s Day, and support their right to protest peacefully about this issues that concerns students at Sussex.

We know that sexual violence is an enormous problem within society at large and within our University community like many others across the UK and internationally.

On Tuesday 8th March, upwards of 40 students, part of the Safer Sussex group, occupied the Sussex House reception, in an International Women’s Day demonstration calling for the university to take action to tackle sexual violence. Their demands are:

  • Better support services for the survivors on campus
  • Create and ensure there are policies for the University to follow when dealing with incidents of sexual violence on campus
  • Introduce better security and access to security services on campus
  • Implement mandatory sexual harassment and violence awareness training for all management at the University of Sussex
  • Provide counselling on sexual violence and consent to support services on campus
  • Make the guidelines to reporting an incident of sexual assault for all students clear and transparent
  • Place notices in all Sussex campus accommodations on how to deal with sexual violence on campus

They were received by Deputy Vice Chancellor Clare Mackie and Martin Chalker, Director for Estates and Services, who listened to their calls for action and agreed to an open meeting with Safer Sussex and Union representatives to be scheduled in the next month.

Elected officers and members of staff within the Students' Union have heard heartbreaking stories from students about their experiences of sexual violence and how they have felt there is insufficient support available to them. 

Elected officers, students and University staff have been lobbying University managers for many years asking for improvements in the support available to survivors of sexual violence. On Monday 7th March, Rianna, Lyndsay and Abe, three of the Union's elected Full-time Officers met the University’s Director of Student Services, to discuss the issue and the University have agreed to re-establish a working group to look at sexual violence. This group will comprise senior staff from across campus services, academics, and local organisations, which we feel is a step in the right direction to address this complex issue. However, we are disappointed that the former working group on the subject, whilst moving positively forward with the care pathway, did not bring about long-lasting changes in all areas. 

In line with Safer Sussex’s demands, the Students’ Union have identified that there are clear areas to tackle sexual and domestic violence on campus, including employing a campus-based Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA), actively recruiting more female security staff, training staff in the care pathway response for survivors of sexual assault, speaking out against the 1994 Zellick report, reviewing the student discipline procedure, providing clear information about the procedure for reporting incidents of sexual harassment, sexual and domestic violence, updating regulations to accept evidence for Exceptional Circumstances claims related to sexual and domestic violence. 

89% of students surveyed indicated they wanted to make I Heart Consent workshops compulsory in induction. Through I Heart Consent, hundreds of students have taken part in training to help them understand sexual consent, including committee members at the Sports and Societies Conference, and yesterday - on International Women’s Day - around 60 of our Women’s and Men’s Rugby club members.

You can sign Safer Sussex’s petition for Sussex University to take action to eradicate sexual violence and harassment against students, first created by the Students Against Sexual Harassment campaign 4 years ago.

You can follow Safer Sussex on Twitter

If you require support in relation to sexual assault that you have experienced, you can contact Survivors’ Network or speak to a Student Life Advisor in the Student Life Centre on campus, as well as accessing the University’s counselling service.

The Student Life Centre has information online to help explain the options available for students who have experienced sexual assault as well as other sources of help and support.


 

 

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