Editorial: Sexual Violence – It does happen here

Palatinate PBy Henry Clare 

The statistics are damning.

20% of UK women over the age of 16 have experienced sexual violence. 3 out of every 20 UK males have been victims too. And 1 in every 4 female undergraduates in the UK has been victims of some sort of sexual violence.

These figures, taken from the NUS’s 2010 ‘Hidden Marks’ survey, paint a picture of a country desperately struggling to tackle the issue of sexual violence.

And it’s reflected in universities across the UK. There are so many surveys and studies that I could quote to you, but the conclusion that they all point to is simple enough: too many students are affected by sexual violence, and too many victims don’t get the help and support that they need.

Durham might be regarded as one of the safest universities in the country, but it is not exempt from these issues, as The Tab’s recent survey has highlighted.

Although ’s excellent front-page article draws on comments from several highly prominent and intellectual people, the most important of these is undoubtedly from a student who spoke to Palatinate about their experience of sexual violence.

“After my experiences, I did not feel that I could report them to the University.

“For me, the issue with the University is that there are not too many places that you can go and discuss experiences like mine”.

Similarly, Catherine Crook, the President of Durham University Feminist Society, claimed that, during their campaign meeting last week, some attendees said they didn’t know who they’d speak to if they were victim to an instance of sexual violence.

It’s worrying to think how many other students have had this experience – unable to get the support that they need. To put it plainly, the University needs to do more to prevent sexual violence, and to support victims.

The implementation of the Sexual Violence Task Force will hopefully help to do so, and it’s encouraging to see Durham putting itself at the forefront of UK universities when it comes to dealing with this issue.

But the details of the Task Force are, as yet, unclear. Will it have the power to make genuine change? Will it represent students when it comes to making decisions? The answer to these questions simply has to be ‘yes’.

As Emily Whitehouse of It Happens Here, and representatives of all nine Durham feminist societies point out, we need a clear policy on sexual violence, mandatory training for all staff on dealing with it, and proper signposting for all students.

Furthermore, it’s been fantastic to hear about the positive impact that It Happens Here’s workshops on consent have had on many Durham colleges. The more frequently these take place, the quicker the number of instances of sexual violence will fall, and the University needs to do all it can to support them.

More information on the support available for victims of sexual violence can be found at: https://ithappensheredurham.wordpress.com/getting-support/resources


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