It’s time for Warwick to step up

Warwick’s Rape Group chat scandal happened two years ago, why haven’t things changed?

Warwick used to be associated with excellence. Our reputation glowed with reports of the highest academic standards, teaching of the highest calibre and innovative research that was set to change the future.

But 3 years ago, everything changed. And nothing has changed since.

In 2018, 11 disgusting male students were caught making sexist, racist and anti-Semitic comments about their fellow female course mates- their friends. Many of these boys held positions of authority in societies and sports clubs on campus, supposedly voted for by their peers for their merits as individuals.

If that scandal wasn’t a direct sign that Warwick needed to eradicate the rape culture contaminating campus, what is? What else does the University need for them to take actual action and make a legitimate change? Numerous reports of sexual violence and assault being reported on a daily basis? Said reports being ignored, and victims left feeling hopeless? Oh wait, we have those too.

I came to Warwick an eager student ready to throw myself into my studies, to make incredible long-lasting friendships and have an experience I would treasure forever. But as a female, I also came to Warwick scared. Scared of walking alone at night on campus, without a male friend to keep me safe. Scared of my fellow course mates making comments about my body and what they would do to it. Scared that if anything happened to me, I wouldn’t be heard or helped by my university. And I wasn’t the only one who was scared for my safety. On my birthday, less than a month after starting at Warwick, my brother gifted me a set of 3 rape alarms and criminal identifier self-defence spray. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out why.

Recently, a fresher started a petition for the university to take action against sexual assault cases because she didn’t feel safe knowing the number of cases that go unreported and victims that go unsupported. The petition, which at time of writing has over 20,000 signatures, calls for Warwick to make support more readily available for students, give higher sanctions to perpetrators guilty of sexual misconduct and a place a greater stress on the laws surrounding sexual assault.

Take a moment to let that sink in. A FRESHER. Someone who has only been at Warwick for 3 months. What’s even worse, and even more sickening, is when we take into account the fact that those 3 months fell during the global Covid-19 pandemic. She and her friends weren’t going out and drinking at bars and clubs (the common sexual assault scapegoats), they were staying in their accommodation and walking around general campus. The idea that a fresher, who is living away from home for the first time, does not feel safe in her accommodation or on her university campus (which is in the middle of nowhere may I remind you, not even in a busy city!) makes me feel physically sick.

Warwick is letting its students down. Plain and simple. In both their response to student demands AND their ability to enact any sort of positive change towards making the University a safer place. Take the recent #ShameOnYouWarwick campaign, which held a (Covid-safe) protest on campus coordinated by multiple societies and attended by hundreds of students. The official University of Warwick Instagram account decided to respond by turning off the comments feature on their posts to prevent students from expressing their anger. This in itself sends out a clear message- Warwick are not listening. They do not care. They do not want to hear our frustrations, our anger, our calls for justice and to stop condoning rape culture. They don’t want to know.

On the following day after the protest, an anonymous author published an open letter addressed to the Vice Chancellor Stuart Croft in The Boar, detailing their experience of rape on campus. The letter highlighted the sheer number of sexual violence stories that the author had heard, stating that ‘It is more likely for a girl at Warwick to be affected by sexual violence, than to not be.’ It also said that boys too are suffering, and that desperate action is needed.

Action is needed, and students want it now. We want Warwick to actively eradicate the rape culture on campus that makes students think it’s okay to assault their friends and course mates, and make vile comments about them. We want Warwick to provide better support for victims of sexual assault, by making students more aware of the resources out there that can help them and being more understanding of the ramifications of sexual assault that victims have to deal with on a daily basis. We want Warwick to provide harsher punishments for abusers, because not only will it serve as a warning to other students but also because they deserve it, and their victims deserve justice. We want Warwick to listen, to hear our cries and to step up.

Warwick University have addressed the ongoing conversation around sexual assault today with a letter to all students. They told The Warwick Tab:

“We have shared a message today with everyone in our student and staff community regarding sexual misconduct and the University. We can also draw your attention to the link on Report and Support – so you can see the support we provide and urge students to use, and in the link to the response to the group chat case you can see the recommendations from the independent review of the case and the extent of the changes that we’ve put in place.”