Am I Next? Students protest on campus ‘against UoE’s treatment of sexual abuse survivors’

Friday’s protest marked the third year students have campaigned for better support

Despite the bad weather, around a hundred students took to Bristo Square this morning for the third annual protest “against UoE’s treatment of sexual abuse survivors”, organised and held by student-led groups Sex? On Campus, UoE’s Feminist Society, and Girl*Up.

The protest marks the third year of action, starting from the MeToo movement in Edinburgh in 2022, and this year asking the question: “Am I Next?”

Speakers and advocates shared stories and voiced their anger towards the university and its handling of sexual assault cases, saying they felt “invalidated.”

Speaking at the event, a spokesperson from the Feminist Society said “We don’t feel safe and protected”, “we demand safety” and that “fear plagues us.”

Similarly, a spokesperson from Girl*Up asked “Why are you [the university] not listening to us?” and said that the university has “cultivated a culture that stretches beyond the classroom.”

Chants of “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” and “Justice for survivors” were also said amongst the protesters, echoing the sentiments of organiser Kate Wilson, who said: “We want an apology and we deserve an apology.”

Speaking to The Tab Edinburgh ahead of the protest, organiser and founding member of Sex? On Campus, Kate Wilson told us: “It’s been very difficult hearing stories and going back three, five, ten years and hearing the same complaints – about the Equally Safe Team, about the university deterring reporting [incidents of sexual violence] to the police.”

The protest is the culmination of “Five Days of Resistance” against gender-based violence on campus, with events this week having included a consent workshop, a poetry workshop and banner painting.

This comes after it was recently reported that the University upheld 18 out of 44 cases of sexual misconduct investigated in the academic years 2020/21 and 2022/23.

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “We understand the strength of feeling on this issue and we fully recognise the responsibility the University has in tackling violence, abuse and harassment on our campuses.

“We want to make it clear that any reports made to us are taken very seriously and we have processes in place to enable us to investigate these thoroughly, transparently and in a supportive way for all involved. We do not discourage or prevent students from reporting any incident to the Police and we will actively provide information and guidance for those who wish to do so.

“We have a dedicated and specially-trained team who provide advice and support to survivors of abuse, including information on how to contact external organisations and support services. Alongside this team, our Report + Support system enables students to tell the University about any abuse they have suffered, either anonymously or with contact details to obtain wider support.

“We invest significantly in sexual violence prevention and raising awareness of issues around sexual violence. We deliver training for students and staff to promote positive behaviours around sexual consent and tackling harassment, and we continue to work closely with partners in the city and frontline groups to support people in crisis.

“We work closely with our Students’ Association and Sports Union to hear from students and to join up and fund awareness work such as the #NoExcuse Campaign.

“In January 2023 we updated our procedures in response to student feedback, bringing improvements to ensure reports that are made to us are investigated robustly and fairly for all parties, and that those making a report are supported throughout this process.

“We continue to explore ways of improving our support and we will not stop until everyone in our community feels safe and protected. We continue to support discussions within our community and the rest of the higher education sector to explore what further action can be taken in the interests of student safety and wellbeing.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story contact Refuge on their free 24/7 helpline 0808 2000 247 or contact Rape Crisis online for a free confidential chat helpline. You can also contact Edinburgh Rape Crisis at 08088 010302

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