Changing the Culture

 

A report conducted by Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room in spring 2018 revealed the shocking extent to which sexual violence occurs at UK universities.

According to the survey 50% of female respondents had experienced sexual harassment as students,  42% of which revealed they had been assaulted, with groping and unwarranted touching being the most common experiences.

This unimaginable statistic is made worse when combined with estimates from the Office for National Statistics which reveals that currently, 4% of women nationally claim they have experienced rape with this number rising to 8% on UK university campuses, twice the national average.

Change the Culture’s main campaign challenge is to place pressure on the government to introduce legislative change that makes funds available to universities so that they can set up systems to care for victims of sexual assault and harassment and have the resources available to properly investigate complaints as well as introduce preventionary measures such as consent workshops to educate people and a visible security presence to deter assaulters.

Anonymous sexual assault and harassment reporting systems are an effective way of helping institutions gauge the level of the problems they face. In 2017, after a string of highly publicised cases of rape on their campus, Cambridge University introduced their own anonymous reporting system.

In the nine months following the introduction of the system, the university received 173 complaints of “improper behaviour” which they described as “a significant problem”. This gives a real figure to the the issue that’s been debated for years and the impact that it has on students cannot be underestimated.

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According to the Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room report, many students feel unable to continue their studies due to a lack of self-confidence and experience a negative impact on their mental health and social life as consequences of assault. 25% of study respondents who had experienced sexual violence claimed they had skipped lectures and tutorials, or even dropped modules in order to avoid their assaulters. The most shocking statistic comes as it is revealed that 16% had dropped out of university altogether.

Introducing these systems unilaterally across the UK’s universities will help in keeping students on their degrees and feeling safe on campus. Based on figures from Rape Crisis England and Wales just 6% of students feel comfortable reporting their experiences to their university and only 2% feel both able to report and satisfied with the reporting process.

Alongside the anonymous reporting systems, Cambridge university introduced other measures as part of their Breaking the Silence initiative. The scheme involved introducing a dedicated website which features advice and help for victims of assault as well as hotlines to report both formally and anonymously. Information on how to be “an active bystander”, so that other students know how to help, as well as sexual consent workshops and other resources are made available so that they can educate themselves. The final part of their scheme involved adding a “toolkit for institutions”, providing help and advice on how other institutions can could set up their own initiatives.

A clear policy statement from the university was also released, making clear that “there is no place for any form of harassment or sexual misconduct at the University of Cambridge” and that they were “dedicated to creating and maintaining a safe, welcoming, inclusive and diverse community that nurtures a culture of mutual respect and consideration” so that all members of the University community are “able to thrive within their roles without fear of sexual violence, abuse, coercive behaviour or related misconduct”.

“The University will continuously work to improve the prevention, response, support and investigation of all instances of harassment and sexual misconduct; and to enable staff and students to make disclosures without fear of reprisal.” The universitity’s hope is that this system can “promote a culture of inclusivity, underpinned by mutual respect”

Change the Culture also spoke to Manchester City Council’s Lead for Women Cllr Sarah Judge on what can be done. She believes that the main focus for change should be education;  “education of women on their rights and the challenges we face moving forward. Educating men on appropriate behaviour and consent. Because we need everyone on the same page and until we can treat men as allies rather than enemies, they will continue feel defensive and we will continue on this uphill struggle”.

Judge went on to talk generally about the issues that women face saying that female homelessness, unemployment, the gender pay gap, domestic abuse and sexual violence all stem from the Conservative government’s cuts which disproportionately effect women. Suggesting that the best way to overcome them is for women everywhere to “get involved in their local communities and make sure everyone has a voice”.

“One of the most simple ways to do that is to make sure that you are registered to vote and that you are taking part in that democratic process” because “until that happens, we are not going to see the type of legislative change that the people of this country actually want”.

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Although it might not always be obvious, slowly but surely, progress is being made. Institutions like Cambridge University creating their own systems act as inspiration and precedent for others to follow suit and hopefully the future will be brighter for all.

 


To keep updated on the campaign you can follow our campaign on social media:

Facebook – @changetheculturecampaign

Twitter – @changethecultu3

Or make your mark by signing our petition:

Change.org 


 

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Viewpoints

 

The issues surrounding sexual assault and harassment are clearly divisive, launching a range of different arguments and counter arguments about what they mean and methods of dealing with them or even if they’re an issue at all.

Whilst harassers and assaulters all over the world, such as Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, are being called out on their actions, their behaviour is still being reinforced with high profile celebrities and politicians refusing to criticise or even engaging in it without repercussions.

Such a figure is the now President of the United States, Donald J. Trump who routinely uses twitter to insult and degrade women. In the now famous Access Hollywood tapes featuring Donald Trump released during his 2016 Presidential campaign he graphically described ways in which he could assault women such as “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women, I just start kissing them” and  “grab them by the pussy, you can do anything”. Later, after the tapes resurfaced, many  news organisations featured guests dismissing the comments as “locker room talk” and downplaying their significance.

Access Hollywood Tapes – The Washington Post

Union President at Manchester Metropolitan University, Amie Atkinson who campaigned on a basis of being “a massive advocate for women’s rights” claims that even as union president she still experiences cat calling on a regular basis. “I’ll be walking though campus from one building to another and I’ll have comments made about me as I pass” she said, “over the years I’ve learnt to just ignore them rather than challenge, but now that I’m in a position to make a difference, that’s exactly what I intend to do”

Atkinson went on to state that one of her key focuses as Union President is to create “a more friendly environment, where women don’t feel uncomfortable. An environment where abusive behaviour in called out…”  because “…a refusal to condone comments like those from Mr Trump sets progress back decades”.

MMU Feminist Society representative, Mila Nixon, also weighed in on the issue saying “our current political climate can feel intimidating and sometimes it can be hard to see a future, but when people band together we can change things, starting with our university community and our city”

Nixon adds that the most important tool in the fight against harassment and assault is education. “A lot of the problems we face are down to the lack of knowledge surrounding them. If we start educating men and boys from a young age about consent then in later life we can potentially avoid continuing this harmful trend that’s remained a constant for generations”.

Despite the frustration of young women, older feminists are still critical of modern movements. In a recent interview with Al Jazeera Germaine Greer, renowned  for being one of second-wave feminism’s major voices, criticised the Me Too movement as not doing enough, saying that it was “going nowhere” as well as challenging the notion that women who experience rape suffer from PTSD.

Germaine Greer Interview – Al Jazeera (Twitter)

It’s clear that not everyone within a movement can agree, nor their views align and the turbulent nature of these issues will continue to divide people, but with the views of the younger generation being one of hope and change, the future is still bright for those that want to change the culture of harassment and assault.

 


To keep updated on the campaign you can follow us on social media:

Facebook – @changetheculturecampaign

Twitter – @changethecultu3

Or make your mark by signing our petition:

Change.org 

How to be an Active Bystander

Every day, life moves on and we are bystanders to it. But when someone is in danger we have to make a decision, become active and step in or say nothing and let it go.

To be active and help prevent something, we must first recognise the dangers that we face in doing so as intervening safely is the most important thing.  Safely intervening could be something as little as a disapproving stare or not laughing at a sexist joke, it might also involved interrupting or distracting something…

but before getting involved, think ABC:

  • Assess safety: If you see someone in trouble, ask yourself if you can help safely in any way. Remember, your personal safety is a priority – never put yourself at risk.
  • Be in a group: It’s safer to call out behaviour or intervene in a group. If this is not an option, report it to others who can act.
  • Care for the victim: Talk to the person who you think may need help. Ask them if they are okay.

 

There are also 4 Ds to think of when it comes to intervention:

  • Direct action
    To call out negative behaviour  by telling a person to stop or asking a victim if they are okay. This is best done in a group, but always remain polite so not to aggravate the situation. Stay calm and say clearly why something has offended you, without exaggerating.
  • Distract
    Interrupting is the simplest method as starting a conversation with the perpetrator allow their potential target to move away. Another method is inviting a scenario to remove the victim from the situation such as telling them they need to take a call, or that you need to speak to them.
  • Delegate
    If feeling too embarrassed or shy to speak out or too unsafe to do so, ask someone else to step in. If at a venue, ask staff to intervene as most places will have a zero tolerance policy on harassment.
  • Delay
    If the situation is too dangerous to challenge then and there such threats of violence or being outnumbered just walk away. Wait for the situation to pass then ask the victim later if they are okay. Report when it’s safe to do so as it’s never too late to act.

 

The best way to start is by talking to friends about their behaviour in a non-confrontational and caring for friends who experience problematic behaviour.

With this is mind, it’s worth remembering that the few moments of awkwardness that stepping in might involve, could prevent a person from having an experience that will change their life forever.

 


To keep updated on the campaign you can follow our campaign on social media:

Facebook – @changetheculturecampaign

Twitter – @changethecultu3

Or make your mark by signing our petition:

Change.org 

Harassment or Assault?

 

In the wake of the MeToo movement, and the continued accusations of sexual assault and harassment against men in positions of power, the world is finally waking up to the extent of assault and rape as the result of abuse of power.

The newfound publicity surrounding the subject, with high profile celebrities breaking their silence and the global MeToo campaign has encouraged more and more victims to come forward, revealing that the issues surrounding those getting away with sexual harassment and assault goes far deeper than Hollywood, a fact that millions know far too well but have felt unable to talk about until now.

Understandably, this newfound publicity might have some people confused about what constitutes assault and harassment. Something meant as a compliment was met with disgust? A touch, followed by anger?

It’s worth analysing what exactly the difference between sexual assault and harassment actually is:


Assault:

Assault is defined by the the Metropolitan Police as “an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation in the form of a sexual act, inflicted on someone without their consent”. This can involve force and manipulation in order to make someone participate in or witness sexual acts.

Rape is a form of sexual assault although separated from it as it involves “a person intentionally penetrating another’s vagina, anus or mouth with a penis, without the other person’s consent”. Whereas assault doesn’t necessarily involve penetration.

A common belief is that all sexual assault involves violence, causing physical injury and leaving visible marks. However sexual assault causes injuries which can’t be seen; severe distress, emotional harm, panic attacks etc. These hidden injuries can take a long time to recover from and proceed even once the physical signs have healed.

Harassment:

When it comes to harrasment, it is often viewed as the lesser of the two and harmless as nobody is physically being hurt. However the Equality Act of 2010 defines is as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.” This, like the hidden injuries of sexual assault, can take a long time for a victim to recover from. Harassment can come in the form of  suggestive or indecent remarks, unwanted touching and requesting or demanding sex.

This definition has been criticised as it can be difficult to differentiate between a humiliating remark and what is commonly passed off as laddish banter. But the important thing to remember when it comes to harassment or assault is consent. Both people agreeing to and having the freedom and ability to agree with what’s happening by choice. The consent of the both parties is the thing that separates and innocent gesture of affection from a crime.


Whilst it certainly isn’t the case that all forms of sexual assault and harassment are attributed to men, an overwhelming amount of stories relate to them as the harassers.

With thousands of women across the world speaking out about the harassment they receive and the assaults not before heard due to fear of repercussions, people everywhere are finally taking notice and understanding an issue that until now has remained a taboo subject.

 


To keep updated on the campaign you can follow our campaign on social media:

Facebook – @changetheculturecampaign

Twitter – @changethecultu3

Or make your mark by signing our petition:

Change.org 

About Our Campaign

Currently, 4% of women nationally claim they have experienced rape but this number rises to 8% on UK university campuses according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics. Why is this the case? What can be done to change the culture?

According to a 2018 survey conducted by Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room 50% of female respondents had experienced sexual harassment as students and 42% revealed they had been assaulted, with groping and unwarranted touching being the most common experiences.

Change the Culture is a campaign aimed at ending campus rape culture and making them sexual assault and harassment free. Through this we will raise awareness about the levels of sexual harassment and assault currently plaguing own universities and target the problem at the source with out #dontbeadick campaign.

Working with charities and individuals we are bringing you the stories of victims and advice on how to stay safe and what to do in the event of witnessing such behavior.

We aim this campaign at Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP (Education Secretary) and Victoria Atkins MP (Minister for Women) as our focus is for the government to introduce legislative change that makes funds available to universities in order for them to  introduce anonymous sexual assault and harassment reporting systems across campuses nationally such as that which was pioneered by Cambridge University in 2017. Part of this will involve creating investigatory measures and referrals to police as just 6% of respondents felt comfortable reporting their experiences to their university and only 2% felt both able to report and satisfied with the reporting process, based on figures from Rape Crisis England and Wales.

These changes would give victims a safe and judgment free environment in which to report incidents and institutions would have the resources available to properly follow up on complaints and introduce preventer measures such as consent workshops and a visible security presence.

 


To keep updated on the campaign you can follow our campaign on social media:

Facebook – @changetheculturecampaign

Twitter – @changethecultu3

 

Or make your mark by signing our petition:

Change.org