‘This voicing was a means to heal’: We spoke to the student behind St Andrews Survivors

They’re still receiving dozens of submissions

Interview sexual assault sexual misconduct st. andrews survivors

CW: Sexual assault 

Over the last week, an Instagram page by the name of St Andrews Survivors has been sharing anonymous accounts of sexual assault at the university. Within days of setting up the page, the admin was flooded with dozens of submissions from students past and present. Amidst the allegations, the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) suspended several of its members, vowing to do better.

The page has now over 3,000 followers and the allegations made it into The Telegraph and The Times over the weekend. The admins are reportedly now working with the university and continue to receive testimonials from even more of students and alumni.

The St Andrews Tab spoke the admin to get a better insight into the important work they’re doing via their Instagram platform.

Is this a movement for change?

To us, I would say so. Campus sexual assault has been a massive discussion in America, but the prevalence and tacit acceptance ingrained into the British university experience has rarely been touched upon, and we hope to shed light upon what is an endemic problem.

The troubles of a widespread drinking and lad culture, alongside a shame-shrouded attitude towards sexual assault, has led to the silencing of so many victims, female, male and non-binary. The purpose of the account was to create a space for survivors to share their stories, anonymously, without judgement, guilt or threat to impede their words. This voicing was a means to heal, and to be free of the constraints that prevent survivors speaking of their experiences.

The amount of submissions we received and are still receiving are radical in their honesty, and though we maintain that our purpose is to help and provide a space for victims to discuss and elucidate their trauma, their unbelievably brave honesty is prompting a larger discussion of what is happening across university campuses throughout Britain, and how we can help and listen to survivors.

What do you hope to achieve?

A more cohesive, survivor-based strategy that listens to victims of sexual violence about what is the best way to help and support them on both an institutional level and via the responses of friends and family, as well as a move towards a culture that is more empathetic, aware of boundaries and consent, and less filled with shaming-and-blaming.

Of our responses, 21 were dissatisfied with university services, and 23 mentioned feeling let down and disbelieved by family and friends; this has to change. Most of all, our key focus is that victims feel heard, feel loved, feel supported and believed, even if that comes from comments on an Instagram post. If we can make any survivor feel a bit more at ease, feel like they can tell their story, and show them that they are not alone; that is achievement in itself.

How do you feel about the response from the University?

The initial steps the University has taken show promise; listening to and working with our founder to utilise suggestions made by survivors and students as to how best make the University safe for them based on experience, rather than theory, shows a willingness to change.

Indeed, the introduction of a compulsory sexual violence course (a suggestion made by the Survivors Team), not only shows that they are taking our notes on board but that they are willing to make steps for change. The people we have spoken to have been very supportive, and very respectful.

However, it is important that sexual assault and violence is a difficult problem with many complex facets, thus requiring many different solutions. This is a first step; a big one, yes, but only the first. This needs to be backed up with acknowledgement, commitment, and continued solid change.

How do you feel about the response from JSoc?

Their statement and their commitment to creating a sexual assault survey to help reflect and aid survivors is positive and thoughtful.

What has the response from individuals and students been like?

Largely brilliant; our comments have been flooded with support and love for the victims, and calls for change. People have been telling their friends, emailing the University; it has been very heartening to see such a mass of support for victims. We hope this translates into real-life support and care for survivors.

Why did you decide to establish a platform on social media for survivors to share their stories? Why now?

Our founder felt that a wider discussion of instances of sexism and rape on university campuses was being fostered by other social movements, and as a result it would be a conducive cultural moment to prompt a useful, reflective discussion that could promote real change.

How do you think this platform will evolve?

Hopefully with our discussions with the university and other anti-sexual violence organisations we can import real changes to prevent assault and help aid survivors in a way that is thoughtful and best for them.

Do you have any resource advice?

Currently we have slides and information up on different hotlines and websites that aid trauma victims on our Instagram page under the highlight reel RESOURCES, but we are in contact with other organisations and hope to offer some more legal and otherwise forms of advice soon via our Instagram platform.

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