Meet the students pushing for better anti-sexual violence policies at LSE

Hands Off LSE hopes their motion will bring about ‘a lasting change to the university’s support system’

TW: sexual violence

Sexual violence has become an increasingly prevalent problem across UK universities, with reports by students rising dramatically and recent statistics painting the issue as “endemic” in higher education for staff.

This situation also highlights the lack of support by unis and the victims’ lack of trust in their unis’ support systems. For example, while a 2018 research found that 62 per cent of students experienced sexual violence, only six per cent of them reported to their unis, and two per cent felt both comfortable reporting and were then satisfied with how the uni handled their case.

Students have made many efforts to improve the situation, with a recent example being the work done for better anti-sexual violence provisions at LSE by the Hands Off LSE campaign. They have submitted a motion to get the Students’ Union to lobby with the uni on their proposed solutions to the issue.

The London Tab spoke to the campaign and the motion’s writer about their goals and hopes.

What is the motion asking for?

In their motion, Hands Off LSE wants the uni to implement these suggestions:

An IT platform with mandatory consent training for students and staff, an accessible reporting tool, and information and connection to support

A permanent trained team dedicated to the cause who are physically present on campus

An annual review of the support system with input from students and staff who have used it

A promise to not misuse NDAs in silencing victims of sexual misconduct by signing the #Can’tBuyMySilence pledge

Sewon, who is a part of the campaign and wrote the motion, told The London Tab: “The Hands-Off team aims to make LSE a safer space for all students, victims, and survivors by incorporating the motion into official LSE policy.

“The motion was written by me (I’m just a student!), so I am sure there are still lots of room for improvement. But what I am looking for is providing a starting point for a long-term reform that direly needs to take place.”

Why are better anti-sexual violence provisions needed at LSE?

Citing that LSE was amongst the most mentioned UK unis on Everyone’s Invited, a platform for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories, the campaign argued that current provisions at LSE “have painfully been inadequate.”

They used their own survey results to describe the system as “highly inaccessible to students,” as the findings show an alarming 82.9 per cent of students were not aware of any support available despite 73.2 per cent of them have witnessed or heard of a sexual assault case at the uni.

Also, they accused LSE of not signing the #Can’tBuyMySilence pledge and not promising to stop using NDAs to silence the voices of sexual violence victims, which they thought “play an instrumental role in combating rape culture.”

But specifically for Sewon, she wrote the motion due to “first-hand experience of how painfully inadequate the current anti-sexual violence provisions are at LSE.

“LSE is supposed to be one of the best universities in the UK and in the world. However, the way they are dealing with cases of sexual assault is just simply not on par with what a student would expect from a top university, and Charlotte’s tragic story proves this point.

“It’s simply unacceptable to keep such a decentralised and dysfunctional support system in place when there are so many victims coming forward through the Hands-Off #MeToo confession form.

“LSE needs to do better. And this is the reason why I decided to write the motion,” she said.

In response, a LSE spokesperson told The London Tab: “We take all reports of sexual violence extremely seriously. We are deeply concerned by Charlotte’s testimony and recognise her bravery in speaking out.

“We reviewed the handling of this case at the time and identified important lessons learned in our handling of sexual assault cases. This has changed the way we operate, and we will continue to review our practices.

“Concrete actions to improve how we deal with sexual misconduct and violence include staff training and the appointment – with the LSE Students’ Union – of an Anti-Harassment Support Advisor. This specialist member of staff acts as an additional point of contact for victims/survivors and will provide support from disclosure of an assault through to any criminal or university processes.

“We are studying the #Can’tBuyMySilence pledge and urgently working through the best way to ensure that LSE policies and practises align with its aims and do not prevent open discussion or the reporting of concerns around bullying, harassment and violence.”

The motion can be read in full here. Hands Off LSE urges all LSE students to vote for the motion at LSESU, as at least 250 votes are needed for it to be considered. Voting closes on 1st April at 7pm.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Three London unis pledge against silencing abuse victims with NDAs

• It’s harder than ever to report sexual assault at uni right now

Investigation: Why do just one in 14 students report sexual assault cases to their uni?