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  • ‘Sexual violence on campus must be addressed’: new report into rape culture on campus suggests how UoM can make students safer

‘Sexual violence on campus must be addressed’: new report into rape culture on campus suggests how UoM can make students safer

Words By Serena Jemmett

TW// sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, mental health, rape culture, violence

In this article I refer to ‘women’, as this report predominately focuses on women, however we acknowledge that trans and non-binary people also are disproportionately affected by rape culture and sexual violence. Some women were also not assigned female at birth, so the experiences we face are not exclusively shaped by our sex, but by gendered norms.

The University of Manchester’s Sexual Violence report consists of the findings from a survey conducted by Resist Rape Culture in May-July 2021. Resist Rape Culture is a campaign group within the University of Manchester (UoM) with the aim of tackling rape culture and sexual violence, and for improving the reporting system and support for survivors. 

This article lays out what Resist Rape Culture’s aims are; the motivations behind and key findings of the report; and the upcoming Greater Manchester Sexual Violence Awareness Week. If you want to read the full report, it can be found here, but please be mindful of the sensitive and possibly triggering content.

Resist Rape Culture was created to address rape culture from the roots. I wanted to raise awareness about the fact that those who harass and assault are not just ‘creepy men’ in nightclubs but are actually often our peers. Rather than focusing on why women do not report, or why women do not do the hundreds of things we are told to do to avoid being harassed or assaulted, we must look deeper down at educating men and boys to respect women and what is appropriate and what is not. 

Resist Rape Culture created an infographic showing the stages of a rape culture: victimisation, degradation, removal of autonomy, and explicit violence. All of these are part and further add to the societal rape culture than we unfortunately have to live in.

We often distance the accused, alleged, and perpetrators from victims by thinking of them as strangers, bu this is problematic as it leaves a huge gap in effectively dealing with the problem of the epidemic of violence against women. More than 90% of rapes are committed by someone the victim already knew. This is the reasoning behind the survey that we carried out: to prove to the university that sexual violence exists on campus, that it is prevalent, and that it must be addressed and dealt with urgently.

Some extremely concerning statistics from the report are as follows:

  • 82% of respondents said they knew what rape culture is
  • 78% said they had experienced unwanted attention or sexual assault
  • 53% of students do not feel safe from sexual assault
  • 74% said they did not know how to report 
  • 62% said they would use security more if there were women security guards
  • 3% said UoM had a good survivor support system 

We also collected 204 testimonies from students detailing situations where they have been harassed, assaulted, or raped. This gave us anecdotal evidence for the high prevalence of experiences like this, and also gave us insight into key locations where the incidents occurred – parks, public transport, campus, and bars/nightclubs.

The findings not only justify our demands, but also have inspired our 11 key recommendations for the university. These are:

  1. Compulsory consent classes for all students regardless of entry level, and education and awareness on rape culture and sexual violence;
  2. Training for students on how to report using the University system;
  3. A clear, easy-to-use reporting system which is both anonymous and confidential;
  4. Training on how to be an active by-stander and what to do if witnessing harassment or assault;
  5. Harsher consequences for perpetrators of sexual violence, with a zero-tolerance approach;
  6. A 24-hour safeguarding and mental health team/officer on campus;
  7. More street lighting around campus, especially Fallowfield;
  8. More women security guards;
  9. Clear access to support and more support for students, along with making students aware of the sexual violence response team;
  10. Nightclub representatives and a bouncer union to join or have close relations to Sexual Violence Action Network for Students (SVANS);
  11. Training for the Students’ Union officers in taking reports of assault.

Each of these have been justified within the report. You can read the justifications from page 15-17.

Samantha Stewart, Advice and Response Manager (Safeguarding, Gender-based Violence & Hate) from the University of Manchester, responded to the findings of the report. She said: “The University have worked closely with Resist Rape Culture as the survey was developed and are keen to take student feedback on board when reviewing how they work to tackle harassment and sexual misconduct. They will be releasing a report outlining the priority actions for the coming year on the 10th November, which will include taking action on the new RRC recommendations.”

The UoM Students’ Union were sent the report on Monday 18th October, and were asked for a statement multiple times, but have not responded.

The Greater Manchester Sexual Violence Awareness Week is the 8-14th November. On November 10th there is a panel event titled “How the University of Manchester is tackling Sexual Violence”. This will feature a keynote from myself about the report and Samantha Stewart on the university’s response and their own report, followed by a panel with Spencer Davis (UoM Head of Advice and Response), Melody Stephen (UoM Students’ Union General Secretary), and Becky Williams (North West Rape Centre). If you would like to attend you can get tickets here.

There is also an exhibition which will involve a variety of media, intended to provoke thoughts, feelings, and actions within its visitors and allowing the public into the centre of what women and other marginalised genders experience on a day to day. Due to the nature of the content of this exhibit, warning signs and messages will be used frequently outside of and during the exhibit, so that all visitors are entering whilst fully informed of the content included. We will also ensure multiple ‘exit points’ to allow someone to leave the space as needed, and either a physical presence or the use of contact numbers to maintain easy access to support.

If you feel passionate to get involved in campaigning against rape culture and tackling sexual violence you can join us at Resist Rape Culture. We are specifically looking to diversify our group even more. Follow us on Instagram @resistrapeculture, where we will advertise our next meetings, and direct message us to get added to the WhatsApp group. Anyone and everyone is welcome, regardless of how you identify.
You can contact Greater Manchester Rape Crisis helpline on 01612734500. If you wish to report to the university or access support mechanisms, you can do so here. Additionally, there is a Manchester Survivor Supporter Pack here.

Tags: abuse, campus, Rape Culture, report, sexual assault, trigger warnings, uom

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