LSE appears to be increasing its provision of support for survivors and announced the recruitment of 36 new safe contacts, a significant increase from last year’s 7. Campaigning over the issue by groups such as Hands Off LSE and pressures on the education sector as a whole seem to be prodding LSE into action.
LSE told The Beaver that 9 of those newly recruited safe contacts identify as male. The Beaver had previously noted a lack of provision for male victims. The University responded by setting up a training session by male victims crisis support charity Survivors UK in December 2019; 38 members of staff attended that training session.
Current Independent Sexual Violence Advisor support for female survivors, provided by Rape Crisis, is set to be expanded for the following academic year after a 6-month trial. An LSE spokesperson said to The Beaver: “After review of take-up and feedback, the service was continued for the academic year 2019/20, on a basis of 6 days of appointments, with 6 appointments in each day. We have expanded the service to include female and female-identified staff as well. We will continue to evaluate the service and gather feedback where we can.” The University is reportedly in conversations with Survivors UK, seeking to provide a similar service for male survivors.
Hands Off LSE, however, dispute the nature of the progress made. In a statement to The Beaver, they say: “whilst the Hands Off team welcome the increase in safe contacts within departments, LSE is still shying away from employing a full-time Independent Sexual Violence Support Advisor (ISVA), a role that has been implemented in many other universities. Safe contacts are members of LSE staff who have received some training, but do not have the same depth of experience and training as an ISVA and their connections to the School could complicate certain cases, for example in a student-staff sexual misconduct case.”
Other salient issues on the table are the potential use of NDAs as a way of silencing assault claims in the sector, and relations between students and staff (which UCL banned earlier this month).