The university ‘have ignored so many and done so little to help us’: we spoke to the organisers of The Vale protest

Around 30 women spoke out about the sexual assault and harassment they have experienced.

UoB students held a Reclaim The Night protest, condemning sexual harassment and assault against women and reports of attacks on campus.

The protest was organised by a group of first year students, who have chosen to remain anonymous.

Around 30 female University of Birmingham students spoke at the event, sharing their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

The gathering comes in response to the murder of Sarah Everard and the government’s support of The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which has been criticised for restricting the public’s right to protest. MP’s have since voted in favour of the bill.

The organisers of the protest told The Birmingham Tab “we were tired and angry of hearing about cases of students on campus being sexually assaulted and harassed, especially on the Vale.”

The students described security making “people feel less safe in a space where they live”.

“We wanted to get the university attention, as they have ignored so many and done so little to help us,” they told The Birmingham Tab.

The peaceful protest, held last night saw female and male students from across the Vale, Selly Oak and beyond gather around the Vale lake. Groups were seated and remained socially distanced throughout the evening, lighting candles and brandishing posters with statements such as “protect your students, not your reputation” and “we deserve to feel safe”.

After a speech by the organisers, the female students of UoB were invited up to bravely share their stories. Over 20 women detailed their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

“Being honest, we thought it was going to be shut down very quickly by the uni or security,” the organisers admitted to The Birmingham Tab, “so when the security said they supported us, it was very surprising.”

The organisers used their social media account, reclaimcampus_uob to raise awareness of the protest.

The students explained to The Birmingham Tab that they “hoped for about 200 people”, and described it as “really surprising and overwhelming” when they saw “so many people come to support us.”

On reflection, the organisers deemed the Reclaim The Night protest “a steep learning curve” but described to The Birmingham Tab how they felt “so proud” to have brought the university community together at the peaceful protest.

The team have received some “constructive criticism about how to better deal with trigger warnings for some of the more traumatic stories shared” although are pleased to have encountered “absolutely no negativity”.

The organisers told The Birmingham Tab that they have received “very little” response from the university regarding the protest and described how they “really expected more” and were “quite disappointed at the lack of communication.

“Hopefully this is just the start and we can open up more conversation with people high up in the university in the future,” they told The Birmingham Tab.

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