Hundreds of students protest on campus against sexual assault and 2,000 sign petition
‘Warwick, you need to be working harder’
Hundreds of students convened at 3pm yesterday (30th November) on the Piazza for a march around campus to protest the lack of action taken for sexual assault cases at the university, following social media posts calling for the SU to take action.
The petition asks the university to take action against sexual assault cases and, since launching four days ago, has amassed over 2,000 signatures. Launched by first year student Laila Ahmed, the petition came after an anonymous confessions Instagram page posted an open letter to the SU.
The petition calls for higher sanctions for perpetrators who are found guilty of any sexual misconduct and for better guidance to students about the support and wellbeing services from the university.
“As a first year student, I simply do not feel safe knowing the amount of sexual assault and rape cases that are occurring on campus,” said Laila in the petition. “Warwick is not doing enough for its students’ wellbeing and many students feel lost and isolated with no information on how to get support or reporting and action must be taken!”
The Warwick Tab spoke to Laila about what motivated her to launch the petition. “I launched the petition because I kept hearing about countless accounts of sexual assault happening on our campus and it just struck something in me.
“I wrote a letter to the SU at 1am in the morning and launched the petition because I wanted to show the university how important this was and that it affects everyone.
“Warwick has report and support which would be so much more effective if people knew about it.”
Helping to organise the protest, leading and speaking at the march, Laila’s aim was to raise awareness and make it clear to the university.
“I want the university to take active change to make the students feel safe and put safety measure in to reduce cases in future but also make sure that sanctions for these crimes are severely punished”, she said.
The protest yesterday was publicised by Instagram account @shameonyouwarwick, where demonstrators were encouraged to wear a mask and bring a sign.
They also published a ‘leaflet’ guide compiled by liberation societies It Happens Here, Sexpression, Warwick Pride, Warwick Enable, Warwick Anti-Racism, Warwick Anti-Sexism and Warwick Mind Aware. The guide included resources for support and information on sex, relationships, consent and drugs.
Eden, a first year who attended the protest, said: “I attended the protest because I think there needs to be an emphasis on support and community. The fact that so many girls and boys showed up shows that there is an impetus to enact change within the uni.”
A Warwick anonymous confessions page on Instagram, @warwickuniconfessions, first raised the issue of sexual assault on campus, publishing an open letter to the SU about the “serious problem of sexual assault and rape on this campus.”
The letter from the account owner said: “I receive countless stories of girls being touched, raped, and taken advantage of in countless other ways. In my personal life I have both witnessed this several times and also been a victim of it since coming to university.
“I know more than anyone on this campus about the sheer amount of times that this has taken place. It is a large-scale problem which needs to be tackled immediately.
“Warwick, you need to be working harder.”
Luke Mepham, Warwick SU president, responded to the post commenting: “Hi all. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We regularly meet with the uni and their Report and Support team to address and issues, but there’s always more that can be done. I’ve reached out to @warwickuniconfessions so that we can arrange a meeting to discuss any ideas and improvements.
“In the meantime, if you have any concerns, please drop me an email at [email protected] If you have experienced sexual misconduct, please report it through Report & Support, or alternatively contact the SU Advice Centre or @crasac_cov (an external, but local charity) for support. Thank you again for raising this issue with us.”
The University gave the following statement: “Our University Principles make clear that we do not tolerate sexual misconduct, violence or abuse. They also make clear that we are committed to providing a campus environment in which all members of our community feel safe and are respected.
“Our Report and Support system enables all members of our community to raise any experiences with us by speaking either to a trained advisor or to report their experience anonymously online.
“We encourage all those who require support or wish to report an incident to visit the Report and Support website (https://reportandsupport.warwick.ac.uk), which will take them through the process of reporting their experience, enable them to do so online and provide full information on the range of support available.
“We also have an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) on campus who is an independent point of contact for anyone who has been affected by sexual violence and she will be offering emotional support and advocacy to anyone who is in crisis and their supporters.
“Those who are found to have broken our University Principles on sexual misconduct, either by the Police or the University’s own disciplinary processes, do face sanctions, which may include Complete Suspension or Expulsion (i.e. permanent withdrawal) from the University.
“As a University, we are committed to preventing and eliminating all forms of sexual misconduct and recognise the significant negative effects that experiencing sexual misconduct can have upon individuals and we will support them, as well as supporting those members of the University community (peers, personal tutors, etc.) to whom such experiences are disclosed.
“We are also committed to providing a supportive and confidential environment where individuals feel confident and empowered to disclose, will be listened to and understand the options available to them – and we will support everyone in our community to challenge inappropriate behaviour where it is safe for them to do so.”