Cardiff’s institutions have failed to recognise the real cause of the Cathays attacks – themselves

They are blaming ‘lad culture’ instead

On Thursday, Cardiff Council, South Wales Police and Cardiff’s universities came together for a summit discussing how to keep people safe at during the night – in light of the recent Cathays attacks. Attacks where three women, some of whom were students, were seriously sexually assaulted in isolated, unconnected incidents.

The latest statement released by South Wales police concerning the attacks during Freshers’ week said: “lad culture” and “laddishness” were partly to blame. The three parties at the summit have said they need to “crackdown” on the ideology surrounding university students and eventually “cut out” the culture in universities.

At the summit Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales Sophie Howe, said: “There are a range of things we agreed from today’s summit.

“We’ll be working with all the universities here in Cardiff to develop a programme looking at challenge a laddish culture which can at times lead to sexually inappropriate behaviour looking at a programme enabling better support to be provided to people who may be victims of sexual assault.

“There have been a number of examples in universities across the country which is really worrying in terms of laddish culture.

“I think it’s an issue universities are very well aware of and they’re very keen to work with us and partners to put in place programmes to challenge that.”

Gorsedd Gardens

These statements would be significant if there was any evidence that either of the alleged attackers so far arrested were lads. One of them, Khalid Alahmadi, is a 23-year-old USW student who requires a translator during court proceedings. The other, Remus Hamza, is 40. There is little to suggest either is the archetypal sportsman, smashing pint glasses over their friends’ heads or singing negligible songs about women coming into stores. Have Cardiff’s institutions decided that this must be a lad culture problem because Alahmadi is a young man at university?

To conclude that this horrible trio of crimes is a result of lad culture is a complete oversight. A scapegoating for the failings of, and lack of preventative measures by, Cardiff’s council and universities.

After two serious sexual assaults in February 2015, no preventative measures were put in place to stop these kind of attacks happening again. A Cardiff University Students’ Union spokesperson told Gair Rhydd: “extra measures beyond safety advice were deemed unnecessary.” “Advice” such as “stay in pairs” or “stick to well lit areas”, as we have been given with the most recent attacks, unfortunately isn’t enough to stop someone from being seriously sexually assaulted. It is not enough.

Making sure the lads at the SU have one less beer isn’t the solution. They’re not even the problem. Cardiff’s issue is a lack of police presence at night in quiet areas of the city, an uncooperative taxi community and not enough consent education for every Cardiff resident about what consent is, not just the lads in the sports teams. Teaching them that  pulling a drunk girl into a hedge or a university building and attempting to rape her is not acceptable – in any culture. This isn’t the lads’ fault. This is the Council, University and their service’s fault. This is a far wider socio-cultural issue, not one which can be blamed on a small tribe at our universities.

The taxi rank by Greyfriars

We are far less concerned about whether the rugby team are put on a leash and their initiations are banned, or whether the football team have a good sit down in front of a PowerPoint about how to not behave. We are more interested in whether the Council and police are going to step up and make taxis take us home to Cathays from town, even if it’s only a five minute journey.

We equally don’t want money spent on more posters around campus promoting an end to laddish behaviour. We want more police officers and volunteers on every street in Cathays and Roath. We want them off the streets off Albany Road and Cathays Terrace, places that are 30 minutes from the centre of town and not directly behind the union or Cathays train station.

It’s embarrassing to see the council pointing fingers at the boys at our universities – when they haven’t even addressed the issue of taxi companies turning girls down for fares late at night. An issue of paramount importance which needs to be resolved.

Lad culture should not be dismissed from the agenda at universities. The word rightly invokes unpleasant images of sports teams, heavy drinking and girls being harassed. However, lad culture does not mean rape. It does not mean attempted rape, or serious sexual assault. It’s highly disappointing and shows how out of touch the three parties at the summit are to think this is the real problem.

We shouldn’t be made to feel unsafe or vulnerable in a city as great as Cardiff. Nearly a month after the attacks we shouldn’t feel threatened at night – but we do. We are still being rejected by taxi drivers, we are still walking in pairs. We still aren’t feeling a greater police presence. The lads fall out of the union at 3am, but they are the ones we are asking to walk us home at the end of the night.