As new students begin their time at university, the fact that more than a third of female students have reported experiences of unwanted advances in the form of groping and touching, and that 67% of students have heard rape or sexual assault jokes on campus, hangs over universities across the country.
With this as a backdrop the It Stops Here campaign has launched at King's College London (KCL) with the aim of building an inclusive and safe environment, where sexual harassment is never acceptable.
After the sexism and homophobia that existed in LSE's Men's Rugby team came to the fore and their offensive leaflets became headline news "there was a general anxiety amongst students and staff members that there needed to be immediate action taken at King's to prevent a similar situation occurring at King's, and to ensure King's was a safe and inclusive environment for all members of its community, said Hareem Ghani, Women's Officer at KCL Students' Union (KCLSU), and campaign organiser.
The collaborative campaign between KCL and KCLSU has also garnered the support of many student groups such as the Intersectional Feminist Society, GKT Football, Action Palestine, King's Rugby, the Medical Students' Association and LGBT Society, amongst others. These groups have taken a pledge alongside hundreds of other students and staff members to combat sexual harassment, educate themselves and others about it, and help to create a culture of no tolerance.
William Brown, president of KCL Men's Rugby, said "as a sports team, we are often branded according to stereotypes and we are keen to make an effort to work against these, so we are really pleased to be involved." This sentiment is shared by many other students and groups; "It Stops here draws much needed attention to the role that we, as a student community, may play in perpetuating a non-inclusive culture" stated Ovia Nagulendram, KCL Tamil Society's campaigns officer.
So far, over 600 students and staff members have taken the pledge. "Each person getting involved and signing the pledge is a step towards an environment where sexual violence is challenged and survivors of violence are listened to and respected", said Rachel Williams, the Vice President of Welfare and Community at KCLSU.
Freshers at the university have been given the It Stops Here talk as part of their inductions, and leaders of student groups will be given training to ensure their groups are inclusive and free from sexual harassment.
Student ambassadors for the campaign have also been recruited and trained, and many will be giving workshops related to combating sexual assault and harassment to other students.
The campaign, which launched at the beginning of the new academic year, has greatly increased the visibility of this all too often side-lined and normalised issue; "In the last few days, I've had friends and other students confide in me about their experiences of sexual harassment, and honestly it's so empowering to know that the campaign has allowed them or given them confidence (however little it may be) to speak up about their experiences" ended Hareem.
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Images courtesy of 'It Stops Here'