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If not the SU, then who? Supporting the victims of sexual violence

Compared to other universities, LSE’s support mechanisms for victims of sexual violence are shambolic. While Oxford has a specialised support service with permanent staff, LSE has one sexual violence counsellor who visits once a month, they will only see female students and can only be booked for a maximum of three sessions. 

Putting aside that limited time is likely to lead to worse service, this could also make victims feel shunned, that their problems are not being taken seriously. Given that 62% of students experience sexual violence, according to Revolt Sexual Assault, this issue cannot be neglected by LSE management any longer. The SU can play a role in two ways: demanding additional support for victims and information about sexual harassment that occurs within LSE. 

Firstly, SU officers, societies and AU clubs should have a vested interest in supporting a campaign for a permanent sexual violence support officer, to provide help to students that they are responsible for. The support across various societies and clubs for mandatory face-to-face consent training showed that students recognise many of their peers have experienced or may experience sexual harassment and that services to address this issue are necessary.

Secondly, the SU, as a representative for student welfare, needs to be fully informed to expose transgressions within LSE. Currently, universities across the UK are awarding pay-offs to students who have experienced assault and harassment, conditional on signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement, with over £87 million awarded by various universities since 2017. Troubling accounts from our partner universities at UCL and Goldsmiths should prompt LSE to release information about whether NDAs are being used following allegations of assault and end the practice if so.

How can we access information and bring about change? Students can campaign via the SU to address this issue in various ways through societies, the SU’s Women’s Officer and the Sabbatical Officers who are mandated to promote student’s welfare and can be contacted about this issue. 

Finally, the Women in Politics Society is holding a Sexual Harassment Awareness Week in November with various events looking at the issue of sexual assault within universities and further afield. We are currently looking for students to join our organising committee and work on our campaign, so check our Facebook page for how you can get involved.

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