With the rising number of students reporting cases of sexual assault at the University, I had a conversation with Molly Hope: one of the founders of a new campaign which aims to shed some light on the issue.
What is ‘We’ve Had Enough.’?
‘We’ve Had Enough.’ is a student-led campaign to bring together students from the University of Kent in solidarity against sexual assault on campus. In light of the rising number of students coming forward about sexual assault, we decided to start a campaign to bring about change in our University. We feel that the University and Kent Union are not protecting its students. Furthermore, we wish to put an end to the lack of transparency from the University, and the Union, practice regarding the magnitude of sexual assault happening on campus, and the procedures in place to combat it. By coming together as a positive force for change, we hope to rewrite the way sexual assault is viewed on campus and push the University to make preventing sexual assault a priority. Students deserve the right to know what is happening on their own campus and they deserve the right to feel safe on campus. In order to make our voices heard, we intend to hold a peaceful protest on campus where individuals and societies can come together to tell the University that ‘We’ve Had Enough.’
What would you like the outcome of the protest to be? What kind of changes does the university need to make to combat the problem of sexual assault, and make students feel safe?
We hope that the protest will bring awareness to the growing issue of sexual assault on campus and bring together students in solidarity against this behaviour to demonstrate that sexual assault effects so many people’s lives, and that it will not be tolerated on our campus. Furthermore, we hope that the protest will demonstrate to the University the seriousness of the issue and urge them to take action. The University needs to reevaluate its approach to sexual assault on campus, with the first steps of that being transparency. Conducting and publishing an investigation into exactly how much sexual assault goes on around our campus, we believe, is the first step towards positive change.
What other, successful, student-led campaigns regarding the issue have inspired you to carry out this movement?
With regards to the University of Kent, the society ‘Respect the No’ have done some amazing campaigns such as the Reclaim the Night march to try and combat sexual assault and continue to run lots of amazing events to raise awareness for this issue. Cambridge University was also an inspiration for the ‘We’ve Had Enough’ campaign as they recently released a report on the amount of sexual assault that happens at the University, as well as setting up an anonymous form for students to report sexual assault.
Have you done some research into the number of sexual assault cases on campus and, if so, what are the numbers? Is there evidence of a large number of unreported cases?
As I mentioned previously, a large part of the problem at UKC is the lack of knowledge/statistics available on the number of sexual assault cases on campus. However, one of the main reasons we decided to set up the campaign was due to the overwhelming number of women who approached me to tell me their own story, or one of their friends’ stories, of sexual assault on campus. A lot of sexual assault that goes on is known amongst students, but the issue has become so normalised that a significant number of students don’t realise its seriousness.
In light of the “Me Too” movement, would you want victims of sexual assault, on campus, to come forward?
Absolutely. Speaking out about sexual assault can be one of the most positive and empowering things a victim can do. However, sexual assault is a complex issue and no one person will handle it the same as another. No one should feel pressured or obliged to speak out about their experience with sexual assault as it is an extremely private thing, but we hope that by having a student body that supports them, victims will feel they are in a safe environment to come forward.
In your research, what has the University of Kent, or Kent Union, done in the past to combat this incredibly serious issue? To what extent has it worked, and what changes do you propose?
The University has attempted to combat sexual assault on campus by setting up U.N.I (You and I) Protect which is an initiative taught through StudyPlus to try and educate students on sexual assault. They also have the ‘Expect Respect’ e-learning module as an extension of this. Educating students on sexual assault and consent is undoubtedly important but sadly these schemes are not enough to get to the root of the sexual assault culture on campus. Similarly, Kent Union have implemented the ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy throughout all Union venues which includes the ‘Ask for Angela’ scheme which is a positive step towards students feeling safer on campus. However, it cannot be denied that despite this Zero Tolerance policy, sexual assault in Union buildings such as The Venue is still a frequent occurrence and so there is still work to be done. Our campaign is attempting to combat the culture surrounding sexual assault at the source: the students. By coming together as a single student voice, it is the first step to empowering students to stand up against this issue as well as sending a message to perpetrators that this behaviour will not be tolerated or brushed under the rug. Sexual assault, in any form, is a crime, and it should be treated as such.
What can students do to practically support the cause, other than following your social media and attending the protest?
I would encourage students to be aware of the culture surrounding sexual assault on campus and to empower themselves and those around them to stand up against it. This deeply ingrained culture will only be changed if everyone, women and men, victim or not, decide to speak up about this issue. We are having a meeting Tuesday 20th February at 5pm in KLT1, and I would encourage everyone to come along and join the discussion. Talking about it is the first step towards change.