Following the death of Emily Drouet, a law student at Aberdeen University, text messages have been released across campus in an attempt to eliminate domestic violence amongst young people.
Emily was 18 years old at the time of her death in March 2016. She was caught in the midst of a seemingly abusive relationship with Angus Milligan, a fellow student at Aberdeen. The recently released text messages illustrated the apparent extent of her physically and emotionally violent relationship with Milligan, in which she described to friends the abuse as “my fault,” insisting that “I made him so angry…I deserve it.”
Spearheaded by Emily’s mother, Fiona, the campaign explicitly calls for both young women and university staff to be aware of the signs and symptoms of abusive relationships. In partnership with NUS Scotland, Emily will strikingly feature on posters and help cards, encouraging student associations across the whole of the UK to lobby their institutions to improve the awareness and availability of on-campus services and advice for both students and staff.
Milligan, a 21-year-old psychology student at Aberdeen, was both expelled from university and sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid work in July after the court found him guilty of both assault and threatening behaviour.
Described by fellow students as the “alpha male on the campus,” the court heard how Milligan seized Emily by the neck, choked and slapped her just eight days before she took her life. He also admitted to sending disparaging and invective messages to Emily over a six-week period, in which she was referred to as a “slut” and “bitch,” amongst a series of other insults and threatening messages.
Five other charges, including an alleged attempt to choke Emily minutes before her death, were dropped as a result of a lack of evidence.
In the wake of the revelation that Emily approached a student resident assistant in Aberdeen before she died, central to the campaign is the call for mandatory training of higher education staff. When Emily was asked if the difficulties discussed included physical violence, she denied it to ensure Milligan did not get in trouble. No further action was taken.
Whilst Aberdeen described the action taken as “appropriate,” Fiona stated that she “would like to see mandatory training for university staff rolled out across Scotland, and then into England and Wales. Part of that training is the bystander awareness [encouraging non-professionals to find safe ways to intervene and interrupt abusive behaviour].
“It’s not just listening to what people are saying but also observing behavioural changes. Emily’s friends are heartbroken that they didn’t recognise the gravity of [Milligan’s] actions. If you suspect someone is being abused and speak up, you can save a life.”
To raise awareness of domestic violence, The University of Manchester are participating in the nation-wide 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence campaign, which takes place from the 25th of November to the 10th of December.
If you are the victim of sexual or domestic assault, the Students’ Union offers a year-round confidential advice service. St Mary’s Centre also offers constant support for both women and men in the Greater Manchester area who have become the victim of sexual or domestic abuse. They can be contacted on 0161 276 6515.
Alternatively, Women’s Domestic Violence helpline can be contacted on 0161 636 7525. For men, the helpline can be found at 0808 801 0327.