Speak Out Now! Loughborough Students' Union take action against sexual violence

4 Dec 2017

This month, the National Union of Students (NUS), and the 1752 Group (who lobby against staff-to-student sexual misconduct in higher education) launched the UK's first survey into university staff sexual misconduct. Together, they are calling for students past and present to share their experiences. In a recent Guardian article, NUS women's officer Hareem Ghani explains that many universities are without basic guidelines on this issue. This is reflected in numerous accounts from students who felt unsupported by their university, following sexual harassment from a member of staff.


Staff misconduct is part of a wider conversation on the levels of sexual harassment on university campuses. A Drinkaware poll found that 54% of female students have experienced sexual harassment on a night out, and only 1 in 7 reported being surprised by this behaviour. Some key recommendations for addressing these issues at universities can be found in the NUS Hidden Marks report (2011) and Universities UK's Changing the Culture report (2016). These include having formal written procedures for addressing sexual harassment, raising awareness of what constitutes harassment, promoting a zero-tolerance approach, training staff to respond appropriately to incidents, and providing accessible ways for students to report harassment. 


We spoke to Hannah Keating — Loughborough Students' Union (LSU) Welfare and Diversity Executive Officer — to find out more about Loughborough University's current approach to addressing sexual violence on campus, and their new Speak Out Now initiative.


The Sexual Violence Working Group


LSU's work in this area is led by the Sexual Violence Working Group. The Group formed over two years ago and is comprised of: academic staff; the LSU president; Hannah Keating; and two students — the Women’s Officer and the Consent Workshop Coordinator, both of whom sit on the Welfare and Diversity Committee with Hannah. The Group is chaired by the Director of Student Services at the University, Manuel Alonso. The benefit of having involvement from across the University is that it allows the group to consider a range of issues, from different perspectives.


The Group run campaigns throughout the year to increase awareness of sexual violence, and to send a clear zero-tolerance message to the University community. The latest of these is Speak Out Now; a new campaign which is being run between Loughborough University  and the Students' Union. It aims to highlight the support options available, and to encourage students to speak out against harassment and sexual assault.


In developing Speak Out Now, the Group worked closely with a lecturer in Graphic Design to run a competition; students were asked to create and submit their own graphics for campaign materials. The competition not only helped to raise awareness of sexual violence on campus by encouraging students to talk about the issue, but it offered them a way to get involved in the solution. Group members selected their f