I am Saffron, NUSU’s part-time Marginalised Genders Officer. My role is a voluntary one, put in place to represent, raise awareness of and most importantly listen to students of all genders (and those who don’t identify as any gender) that are oppressed, silenced and abused in society. This includes those who identify as female, trans*, non-binary, genderqueer, agender etc.
As your part-time officer, I will focus on informing students on ‘Learning to Ask’ for consent in sexual situations through the medium of workshops, booklets and informative videos and will run an awareness campaign on consent classes to dispel the myth of them as ‘patronising’ and ‘needless’.
Sexual consent leads me to discuss the revolting prevalence of sexual assault and rape in university settings. Results of a study by YouthSight shows that rape is not just a women’s issue: one in three students who identify as female have “indicated they had experience some form of assault or abuse, […] meanwhile, one in eight male students had also been subjected to groping or unwanted advances. One per cent of student of either gender said they had been raped at university.”
As NUSU’s Marginalised Genders Officer, I wanted to collate results specific to Newcastle University. I therefore compiled a questionnaire to distribute to Newcastle University students and gathered data from over 110 recipients. 70% of respondents had been sexually harassed or raped in the city of Newcastle (18% on University campus itself).
A mere 8% of the responses reported the incident to the relevant authorities. This data shows only a portion of the deeply rooted problem at hand – the trivialisation and silencing of sexual assault, harassment and rape cases. Students, and any other person who has experienced a sexual crime, often feel afraid to discuss their experiences and aren’t provided with enough guidance to report the incident to the Northumbria Police or their GP. Only one student in the survey approached NUSU after being raped.
When I informed Rachael Kitching, NUSU’s Welfare & Equality Officer of the survey’s results, she felt disappointed that students had not been sufficiently informed of the reporting system in place. Kitching claimed that NUSU has an “‘It’s Not Ok’ reporting system for sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. Survivors can either report with a name or anonymously, so that the survivor is given choice over their disclosure.”
Comfort is one of the most important thing for survivors – NUSU also has ties with a local charity called REACH, who are “always recommended for those survivors who are not yet ready to take official police action [meaning] the survivor can take the time to process the incident and whether they wish to take this further.”
Rachael and myself will be working together in the coming weeks to ensure that the online reporting system is more publicised to widen accessibility for all students. We will also be discussing potentially providing Newcastle University and NUSU staff with training in how to attend to sexual violence complaints.
Sexual assault and rape is unfortunately commonplace at university and needs to be urgently combatted. This should include preventative and reactionary measures – as one of your part-time liberation officers I will ensure that a portion of my time as Marginalised Genders Officer will be devoted to informing students of ‘Learning to Ask’ for consent, and raising awareness of the reporting systems at hand in the North-East, such as Tyneside Rape Crisis, REACH and the NUSU online reporting system, ‘It’s Not Ok’. If you have any queries, suggestions or feedback for myself, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.