There is a transition that happens when you become a survivor of sexual violence. Who do you become from that point on? Warwick SU Welfare and Campaigns Officer Chloe Wynne became a leader. I sat down with Chloe in her office, where she revealed how she overcame being sexually assaulted as a student by campaigning on behalf of other survivors.
She chose not to report the perpetrator, and wants to reassure others that they should not feel pressured to do so if they do not feel able. “I never reported them and I always felt a guilt that they would go on and repeat that crime, but you can’t harness that feeling, because you’re basically putting the blame back onto yourself. You have to decide what is right for you. And if you’re like me you do shit all about it and start campaigning instead!”
Chloe’s history with campaigning goes far beyond her role as Welfare and Campaigns Officer. She previously served as Women’s Officer and was involved in the ‘I Heart Consent’ campaign at Warwick, including the workshops which attracted nationwide attention after George Lawlor claimed, in an article for The Tab, that he didn’t need consent lessons. Chloe, however, is empathetic to the feelings he expressed.
“If you empower someone to call out someone else’s behaviour then eventually that will mirror onto their own standards of what they expect of themselves.”
“Something that was a drawback with ‘I Heart Consent’ is when people feel that they’re being targeted as a potential perpertrator. I think the better way to go about it is to treat people as bystanders. If you empower someone to call out someone else’s behaviour then eventually that will mirror onto their own standards of what they expect of themselves.”
This bystander-based approach is something that Chloe has been integrating into the Warwick curriculum, by introducing an ‘intervention initiative’ into the Law and PAIS departments. “It’s a consent course, but it’s not exclusively consent,” she explains. “It’s about being a pro-social bystander and learning bystander theory, so that from the smallest interaction in Bar Fusion that might be sexist, to your housemate who might be in a case of domestic abuse, you are empowered and equipped with the skills to intervene.”
Having two departments agree to trial this initiative is something that Chloe says should not be underestimated. It is evidence of a wider push towards better awareness of the issue. Just last month, Vice-Chancellor Stuart Croft revealed in an interview with the Boar that he had met with local support service Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, or CRASAC for short, to determine whether one of their independent advisors ought to be placed on Warwick campus.
“If I were assaulted tomorrow, would I be more supported? Maybe not. But I know it’s heading that way.”
“It sounds silly, but it’s no small deal that the Vice-Chancellor came to CRASAC. A lot of other universities and unions in the country are not that lucky. From what I gather, Stuart’s predecessor wasn’t interested.”
While she is encouraged by the movement towards progress and better support for students, Chloe shows signs of being torn in her excitement, confessing that she still worries about the students who will most likely be assaulted during her tenure. “It’s going to take time for this to trickle down and for the reporting pathways to be clear. Until we can be sure that it’s definitely going to happen, we’re unfortunately still going to be missing survivors. If I were assaulted tomorrow, would I be more supported? Maybe not. But I know it’s heading that way. ”
However, it’s not been plain sailing as far as positive trajectories go, she reveals. As I ask her what setbacks, if any, she encounters, she nods vigorously. “There have definitely been some,” she confirms. “I was invited to attend the University’s Equality and Diversity Committee to present a paper on sexual violence. After giving this heart-wrenching testimony, in which I nearly cried, I was told by a member of that committee that none of her students ever got raped.”
“The other setback was what came of that committee. A task force was established, which I was very excited about, but I’m not very happy with how it’s running. I’ve had more success in my work outside of it. All the work I’ve been doing couldn’t even go through it because it has no powers and no budget. It begs the question that when the University commits to setting up some kind of working group, is that just a way of deferring or looking like they’re doing something?”
“After giving this heart-wrenching testimony, I was told by a member of that committee that none of her students ever got raped.”
Overall, Chloe’s biggest frustration appears to be the absence of realisation in our University community, both by students and staff, that sexual violence is even an issue on our campus. “When I tell people that it is one of my main priorities for this year, stock responses are: ‘What, that’s a problem at Universities? Huh.’ That’s also telling that they don’t realise that it’s a problem in wider society”.
“If you fail to grasp what sexual violence actually looks like, you’re likely to miss the signs of it. We see it as something that is so removed from the everyday, and there’s this wide misconception that it’s done by a stranger in a dark alley, but the anecdotes show that it will likely be done by someone you know and in your own bed. My second assault was someone I was dating, and it wasn’t an ambush situation.”
“If you speak to the women around you, you will get a lot of disclosures. 1 in 7 female students are seriously assaulted or raped and 1 in 4 will experience harassment. Between your coursemates or your flatmates, someone will be suffering and it’s just that you’ve not recognised it because you don’t understand it.”