Students launch ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign to fight sexual violence

It’s a rainy winter evening, the fairy lights are twinkling in Qudos, and there’s cake in abundance. If there was a heartwarming QMU Christmas story, it’d be the perfect setting, but we’re here for reasons much more pertinent than Christmas.

Over the summer, GU Amnesty International’s campaigns officer, Sarah Bacom, proposed a campaign to make changes to how Glasgow University currently addresses (or doesn’t address) sexual violence, to improve support for students who have survived sexual violence, and to make our campus a safe space for all. While rooted in GUAI, the campaign grew to include more groups: GU Mental Wealth, GU FemSoc, Isabella Elder Feminist Society and Sexpression: Glasgow joined together to provide a balanced approach, with expertise from each group to create as strong a campaign as possible – and Let’s Talk was born.

Let’s Talk seeks to promote seven measures that will reinforce safety for all students at Glasgow University. As it stands, the University’s Code of Conduct is completely void of any condemnation of sexual violence. The collective calls for a clause to prohibit sexual violence on campus – not just along University Avenue, but also in halls of residence – and detailed information as to how a student who is a survivor, a bystander, or an assailant can report any incident of sexual violence.

Additionally, it reinforces the importance of mandatory training for students and staff alike. SRC executive officers should undertake sensitivity training, while all Freshers’ Helpers must access sexual violence prevention training. A final programme for all new students, from freshers to those studying abroad, seeks to implement bystander intervention training. This, as Sexpression’s secretary Ailish Caroll-Brentnall points out, is not to force people to intervene in potentially dangerous situations, but to stamp out rape culture in action. To call out a rape joke at a party shows the perpetrator why they’re wrong, and provides a safe environment for survivors – something that should be always ensured.

Students currently lack adequate information about services to access following an act of sexual violence, and Let’s Talk highlights this. They propose for the University to actively promote all services available within the University as well as Glasgow aimed at survivors of sexual violence. Also, similar to the multitude of Careers’ Fairs, they suggest a Service Meet and Greet Fair. This would give students a familiar face within these services, should they be required to access them. Finally, a social media campaign ran by the University should target the issue of sexual violence on campus.

The petition was launched on the night (despite some minor technical difficulties!), and seeks to implement these aims. Sexual violence is, sadly, still too prominent in our cities, on our streets, and on our campus. Let’s Talk offers a student-led, practical approach to creating a safe educational community for us all.

[Amy Shimmin]

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