By Ryan Gould
The University has stated that its new Sexual Violence Task Force, designed to review the University’s approach to sexual violence, is “very keen to listen and learn from students and staff” in a statement to Palatinate.
The Task Force, which includes representation from students as well as staff, was founded in the summer to “research and review University practices” in the area of sexual violence. It is chaired by former Chief Psychologist at the Ministry of Justice, Professor Graham Towl, who is a Pro-Vice Chancellor at Durham.
Durham is the first British university to set up an initiative of its kind.
The University told Palatinate that the purpose of the group “is to research and review University practices in [the area of sexual violence], current forms of support for those who have been affected by sexual violence, and programmes aimed at generating cultural change in the area of sexual behaviour and sexual violence.”
“It will make recommendations in each of these areas, and in the long term, management and governance structures required to implement and evaluate their effectiveness,” the University said.
The University also stated that the Task Force is “inclusive,” and where necessary, works closely with the police, Rape Crisis, and other organisations in the field.
Since its founding, the Task Force has held two public events, with one held in July, and another earlier this month. The most recent event, held in Durham, involved a screen of Hunting Ground, a documentary about sexual violence on US university campuses.
On its website, the Task Force says its vision is “a University community where survivors are supported while [the University] strives to eliminate sexual violence.”
It describes its mission as “working together with members of the University community and key external stakeholders to make policy and practice recommendations on all forms of sexual violence, including the cultures that enable it.”
In conversation with Palatinate earlier this month, Professor Westmarland, a member of the Durham Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse, said that she thinks Durham is “at the forefront of doing this type of work,” though warned students that they would have to continue to put pressure on the University to ensure that the Task Force’s strategy is implemented.
“It is all very well having a strategy, but we need to make sure it is implemented and funded accurately.”
Photograph: Durham University