Dear Stuart Croft: Yes the rape chat was two years ago, but the culture still exists
Stop trying to distance yourself from something which isn’t the past, it’s very much still alive
Following the recent protest, petition and open letter criticising Warwick University and the university’s perceived lack of action to protect victims of sexual assault on campus, Stuart Croft released a statement last week. In this, he highlighted the support that victims are able to receive and he also indicated that the university is actively trying to “tackle sexual misconduct”.
Whilst his response could be seen as some sort of acknowledgment for the university’s previous lack of response and urge to counter this prominent issue, the tone-deaf content of the email just further represents how Warwick is unable to really support victims of sexual assault.
The initial reference to the rape group chat “that happened two years ago” immediately sets the tone that attempts to place these problems in the past. Although that might have happened ‘two years ago’, it is clear that in reality, nothing has changed. The students that were a part of that group chat had their bans reduced from 10 years to 12 months, ultimately giving them the option to return to campus and continue with their studies. Whilst it is confirmed that this will not be the case, this is still a problem of the present, where these individuals are not disciplined enough for their actions.
Through decisions like these that allow students involved in sexual misconduct to come back and study at Warwick, it presents the idea that Warwick does not care about these matters, nor the victims. It perpetuates the cycle where victims speak out, and their feelings are undermined by the university, who provide little support for them, and ultimately proceed to subdue the claims in order to maintain respectability.
In reality, victims are aware of this cycle, and hence, many decide to stay silent. How can a university promise parents that their children will be safe and respected when many feel as though they are not able to raise their experiences of sexual assault and receive any sort of support and justice?
Furthermore, in what world can Warwick University be a supportive and positive environment when those who contribute to the problems of sexual misconduct are allowed to freely walk around campus and return to their lectures, seminars, halls? But this is a common theme for Warwick – allowing those involved in these atrocious acts to stay whilst those affected are made to suffer and it ultimately raises the question of who is really punished in the outcome of these cases?
Later in the email, Stuart Croft also suggests students who are victims of sexual misconduct to report to the Report and Support tool. He states that: “Within 48 hours a trained Students Liaison Officer will get in touch to provide support.’
The absurdity of this statement is terrifying and to know that this statement was looked at many times before being released is more so. To the university, there is clearly no issue with victims being made to wait for 48 hours after being sexually harassed, assaulted, or raped.
To receive any kind of formal support from the university within 48 hours is far too long. For 48 hours, those victims could be overwhelmed by fear that something could potentially happen again. For 48 hours, those victims are expected by the university to carry on with their studies as if nothing happened. For 48 hours, physical evidence and memories can become distorted by time and trauma. For 48 hours, those victims are not heard or recognised.
And with these 48 hours comes the ability for those who committed any sort of sexual misconduct to act in a similar way to another student. To possibly ruin the life of another person, another human being. This completely lax mentality to sexual misconduct is creating a space for more victims, for a rise in mental health issues on campus, and for less faith in the university.
The fact that this email has taken so long to come about stresses the idea that this is not something taken seriously by the university. This is not enough. There needs to be an effort placed on the safety and wellbeing of victims – not just for the image but in reality – and there should be more effort to educate students on what constitutes sexual misconduct.
There is no excuse for the poor attempts of Stuart Croft to pretend as though there is sufficient support for victims and a good enough system in place. We all know he just sent that email to remind us the chat was two years ago. But to Warwick students, it is still happening right now. More needs to be done.