Kate Roberts, Alissa Chohan, Henn Warwick and Lucy Brown
The last few weeks have been exhausting for women, both in the Royal Holloway community and the wider world. As your Sabbatical Officers, and all women ourselves, we cannot stay silent on this matter.
We have been working hard on this issue with the University and internally at the Students’ Union; discussions have already occurred with the University about safety on campus, safety in the local community, and how this impacts different groups of students with different lived experiences of our campus. We are also relaunching our student security and safety review in preparation for (hopefully) reopening our nightclub venues later this year. We are now working towards engaging with our Collectives on this issue and developing action plans with the University and local community.
After the joy seen across social media celebrating inspirational women on International Women’s Day, we all quickly plummeted back to earth. Firstly, Megan Markle was openly rebutted for stating how she struggled with her mental health. Then we were all informed of the murder of Sarah Everard by a police officer, which was followed by a report from All-Party Parliamentary Groups for UN Women that stated 97% of women have experienced harassment or assault. Social media has been saturated with the constant reminder to women of the narrative that they are unsafe. This is not a conversation where we should forget or ignore the calls to action.
Recently, a new initiative called Everyone’s Invited has launched and gained significant traction in the media. The website is aimed at collating anonymous testimonies of abuse and harassment, particularly within schools and universities. The site also provides resources, signposts where individuals can find help, and brings together a community of individuals speaking out about this culture. The stories on this site provide a significant reminder that universities and their cultures are not at all exempt from the impact of this wider societal problem.
This narrative is not a surprise to any woman. Sadly, too many of us have personally experienced harassment or assault or know someone who has experienced it. And some of us are far more at risk due to class, race, religion, or sexual orientation. This has been made increasingly evident in the most recent attack on eight Asian Americans in Atlanta, six of whom were women. This was followed by a report from Stop AAPI Hate that 68% of reported incidents of anti-Asian hate since March 2020 have been reported by women.
There is a sense of collective grief amongst women hearing all these cases. Firstly, because we are all too aware that it could have been us, but secondly because it should not have taken murder to recognise the ongoing fear that women possess.
Unfortunately, we all know that male voices speaking up are going to gain more attention and it is crucial that men recognise their privilege in helping us change this narrative. As hard as it is for many of us to admit, we can’t tackle this without you. We need you to step up and start taking action. It must be your place to comment on the discrimination, misogyny, and culture which leads to violence against women and minority genders.
We recognise that it may seem overwhelming, and it is hard to know where to start or how you can help, but you cannot continue to use this as an excuse because we need your voices to progress the conversation.
Talk to your friends, colleagues, teammates, and family about the issue and how appalling it is. Attend bystander training to learn how to intervene. Ask the females closest to you what you can do to help them feel safe. Stand up for us when you hear friends using derogatory language. Learn how misogyny infiltrates our everyday lives and start working against it. Above all, please believe us when we tell you how very real and terrifying it can be to be a woman.
The University’s Wellbeing team provides support to all students with their general wellbeing. The Wellbeing Advisers will help coordinate the right support for you or refer you to others within the department for longer-term or more specialised support.
The University’s Student Counselling team work to the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) Code of Ethics and Practice and they are a BACP accredited service. They are open to all students to provide therapeutic intervention to support you during your university life.
The RH BeHeard platform is designed for anyone who has experienced sexual harassment/assault, discrimination or hate crimes, and provides an avenue for accessible and anonymous reporting. You can find the form to report incidents within the Wellbeing section of the student intranet.
NHS Rape and sexual assault referral centres
Sexual assault referral centres offer medical, practical and emotional support to anyone who has been sexually assaulted or raped. They have specially trained paediatricians / Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE) and support workers to care for you.
Solace SARC Slough & The Solace Centre Surrey
Solace provides a service to men, women and children who have experienced rape or sexual assault. All Solace clients are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of gender identity, age, ethnicity, ability or sexuality. It is understood that accessing support for sexual abuse can be incredibly difficult for anyone, but for those from black and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ and people who have physical, learning or mental difficulties, there are often extra barriers that may make you feel unable to reach out for support.
The Survivors Trust
The Survivors Trust provides a range of specialist services to survivors including counselling, support, helplines and advocacy services for women, men, non-binary people and children. These agencies are mostly charities and are completely independent of the police.
Victim Support is the oldest victims’ charity in the world, with more than 40 years’ experience of supporting and working with people affected by crime. They are a trusted partner and work closely with local organisations and communities, local and national agencies, local and national government, and other third-sector organisations to deliver effective, victim-centred services that give people the support they need to move beyond the impact of crime.
SupportLine provides a confidential telephone helpline offering emotional support to any individual on any issue. The helpline is primarily a preventative service and aims to support people before they reach the point of crisis. It is particularly aimed at those who are socially isolated, vulnerable, at risk groups and victims of any form of abuse. SupportLine is a member of the Helplines Association. SupportLine also provides support by email and post.
Stop Hate UK
Run by the charity Stop Hate UK for immediate advice and support. Anyone who is either a victim or a witness of a hate crime will be able to report the incident directly to the Helpline. The aim is to encourage the public to report incidents where they have been called names, physically hurt, or had their property damaged because of another person’s prejudice towards their race, faith, age, sexuality, gender or disability.
Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (MAMA) is a secure and reliable service that allows people from across England to report any form of Anti-Muslim abuse. They have created a unique portal where individuals may address your concerns and record any incident that they experience as a result of their Muslim faith or someone perceiving you to be Muslim.
Community Security Trust (CST) is a charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism and related threats. CST received charitable status in 1994 and is recognised by police and Government as a unique model of best practice. CST has over 90 full and part-time staff based in offices in London, Manchester and Leeds.
Galop can help if you experience homophobia, transphobia or biphobia anywhere, including at home, in public, at work, online or in cruising sites. Their hate crime casework service can give you advice, support and help. They also provide support for LGBT+ people who have experienced sexual assault, abuse or violence and domestic abuse.
End the Virus of Racism
Hate crime towards people of east and south-east Asian heritage has increased threefold during the coronavirus pandemic. The ‘End the Virus of Racism’ is a broad, independent, diverse, and cross-party coalition of British citizens and residents calling for zero tolerance for racism following an increase of hate crime towards the Asian Community. They are able to offer support for victims of hate crimes through a trustworthy and independent service. They provide a phone hotline for people to call in times of need.
Registered charity no: 1141998
The Students’ Union, Royal Holloway
Egham, TW20 0EX