The Student Union could do more to protect our safety

The only helpful initiative they’ve provided is the safe taxi scheme


There have been four sexual assaults, two car break ins, and robberies from student houses in less than a year.

A report run by Cardiff Council acknowledged that the Cardiff city centre may be becoming less safe due to funding cuts. The report was contributed to by experts in policing, health, and transport who warned that less funding to South Wales Police and other services may result in the city centre becoming more dangerous at night.

I didn’t hear the University or the Union inform us the city was about to become more dangerous, despite the assaults and robberies earlier this year.

Silence

Silence

I didn’t hear any extra precautions being taken to ensure our safety, or even to remind us to take extra precaution on nights out. In fact I don’t hear much from the Union in terms of looking after our safety. The only time I heard CUSU respond to the assaults is in a morally obliging statement after the three sexual assaults in Freshers’ Week. I haven’t heard any preemptive movement since.

Well now it’s happened again, right outside our Student Union, and although it is understood the victim is not a student the attack still occurred. So what is our Union going to do this time? Release the same ineffective statement and advice.

A spokesperson from the Student’s Union assured me: “As always Cardiff University Students’ Union takes the safety of its student members very seriously. Whilst Cardiff is a safe city, we want to emphasise the importance of taking sensible precautions when out at night.”

I always thought actions spoke louder than words. I do not think “as always” should be a phrase used in relation to rape and sexual assault, especially when more could be done to prevent it. I do not know what is qualified as ‘seriously’. But this is ‘seriously’ lacking in evidence to support the statement. To take something seriously you have to act. There is no longer an increase in patrol. There are no reminders to take care of yourself. There are no advertisements for their safe taxi scheme. There is no presence from either the University or the Union to protect us, apart from a mandatory statement after the assaults.

The last action taken was to blame ‘lad culture’ for the assaults, despite two of the assailants being middle-aged men who did not attend university.

If you can make bouncers check our alcohol level on the way into the club you can definitely do it on the way out. You can make sure customers to the Student Union are safe to enjoy their night without the fear of assault on their way home. On Saturday night I read a YikYak of a student being fearful to get a taxi home alone. Its time to deal with this problem and start listening to us.

This was a Cardiff Yak at 3am

This was a Cardiff Yak at 3am

Following the last series of assaults The Tab asked students “What preventative safety measure should be in place after the Cathays attacks?” The result was quite frank admissions that the Union hadn’t been seen doing anything. Did the people advocating for a ‘Student Voice’ even ask us what we want to feel safer?

The people asked wanted a Union run safe walk scheme, the issuing of rape alarms, self defence classes, and to only introduce consent classes if it is ultimately necessary.

None of this was listened to. Did anyone know Park Place’s security office issued rape alarms? Did they even email us? And although we are now building a Safe Walk Scheme, it is student run, with no endorsement from the union. It just seems the Union never tell us anything crucially important to our safety and protection.

On speaking to a French and Politics student they stated: “The university would rather add sexual assault to the list of extenuating circumstances rather than do something about preventing it.” And although I agree this shouldn’t be an either/or situation. Sexual abuse happens. Prevent it, deal with it. Stop ignoring it.

This isn’t the result of Freshers’ Week, this is the consequence of no action taken from Cardiff Student Union and the University to protect us.

Where were they at the announcement of the police funding cuts? Where is our student voice in these matters? We are most at risk at night. Who is meant to be ensuring our safety and why have they not said anything?

Here is the full statement from a spokesperson of the Student’s Union: “There was an incident last night that is currently under investigation by South Wales Police. As always, Cardiff University Students’ Union takes the safety of its student members very seriously.

“Whilst Cardiff is a safe city, we want to emphasise the importance of taking sensible precautions when out at night. These include planning how you will get home before you go out, staying in pairs and groups while walking around at night, sticking to well-lit populated areas, and looking after friends. Students can also take advantage of our safe taxi scheme if they don’t have enough money to get home.

“Further information about the safe taxi scheme can be found at cardiffstudents.com/safetaxi.”

A friend informed me it would be risky to publish this, but it is no riskier than going out at night in Cardiff. If Cardiff’s Student Union can provide me with evidence proving they have made efforts to increase support and safety for members of their university against sexual assault I will happily retract my comments.

If not, where is my £9000 going and what are the Union’s representatives being paid to do?