doc

A campaign for a trained member of staff to be employed to help deal with issues of sexual assault, harassment and rape on campus has been launched at the University of Roehampton.

Zoe Cartlidge, president of the Feminist Society who launched the campaign, said: “There is currently no specific service provided for these matters, of which are only becoming more prevalent within our own university as well as universities all over the UK.

“It is incomprehensible that those who are assaulted have no clear and professional place to go to help deal with this trauma.”

The society is staging a lie down protest on Monday, March 27 to highlight the issue.

Zoe, 21, a third year dance student, said she was a victim of sexual assault herself in first year which inspired her to campaign for this cause.

She said: “I experienced sexual assault on campus and there was no place for me to go. There was no support.

“There are so many people here that have nowhere to go.”

Zoe did not report the alleged assault as she felt the man, who was also a student, knew so many people on campus that she would not be believed.

With regard to the University hiring a counsellor that deals specifically with sexual assault, she said: “It would make people more able to speak about their experiences and bring them the support they need.

“It’s a really traumatic thing to go through. Victims experience PTSD, anxiety and depression.

“When it happened to me I felt really scared and alone. The person who assaulted me was always around.

“It happened in Freshers’ Week of my first year. I had just moved away from home.”

There are reps in the university from second and third year who help first year students with any issues they come across and Zoe believes it would also be beneficial to teach them how to respond to victims of sexual assault.

Head of Wellbeing and Enquiries Dr Aleata Alstad-Caskins for the University of Roehampton said: “The University has a wide range of support measures in place to help and support students who are affected by sexual harassment, assault and rape.

“In the unfortunate event that an issue does occur, our student welfare officers are trained to handle reports of sexual assault and offer support during police interviews; they can provide assistance with post-assault services such as medical treatment and long-term therapy and provide ongoing support for the duration of the survivor’s studies.

“The team includes an expert with specialist training in rape and sexual violence. Free in-house counselling is offered on site.”

In response to this Zoe said: “Although Student Welfare Officers are in place, they are not mentioned on the Sexual Assault Policy Page on our Students Union website, making it unclear whether you should approach them for this purpose.

“Nor is there any clear information on there being a team member with specialist training in rape and sexual violence. If these specialists are as available as this statement says, why are there no clear indicators of how to contact them if you are faced with issues of sexual violence?

“Due to this service being unclear, it therefore means you are encouraged to go through student representatives such as the welfare officer within the RSU or your flat representative, both of which are biased places of support, who may have conflicts of interest should they already know someone who is being reported, and are not professionally trained to deal with vulnerable people.

“This is why we need a clear, professional and unbiased port of call for issues of this nature.”

She added: “Consent workshops provided by the university although well intended, are inadequate at preventing sexual assault throughout the entire university.

“The only workshops of this kind I have seen advertised have been optional, meaning at best you are only reaching minimal students, who are already invested in learning about this topic.”