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Challenging rape culture: How Warwick’s HEFCE funding should address sexual harassment

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The University of Warwick will be given funds from the £2.45 million Higher Education Funding Council for England to address sexual harassment on campus, and provide safer campuses for students. Back in 2016, The Guardian conducted a survey of students’ experiences of harassment, revealing an epidemic of sexual abuse within universities, which remains largely unreported.

We live in a society where rape and sexual abuse is normalised, and university culture cultivates such ideas. We are taught when going out that our body is not our own, and being groped or verbally abused is a compliment that should flatter us, not offend us. When no one is pulled up for grabbing someone else’s arse on the dance floor, we are just teaching him or her that they have a right to someone else’s body.

Regardless of how uncomfortable or offensive people may find it, some of this money needs to go towards consent classes, to teach that what have become established norms are in fact rape culture. It is vital that universities across the country invest a large part of this money into such preventative measures, because it is vital to educate on what sexual abuse actually is, and get rid of the dangerous concept of blurred lines.

We are taught when going out that our body is not our own, and being groped or verbally abused is a compliment

For victims of sexual abuse, we need to ensure that universities are providing sufficient protection and support that is both visible and accessible. A huge issue surrounding sexual abuse is that the majority of victims will not report or even talk about what has happened to them out of fear or embarrassment.

The interrogation, admin, and general hassle that surrounds reporting sexual abuse puts many victims off. We need to make reporting abuse easier, and allow survivors to avoid having to relive the event time and time again. Better training needs to be in place for those that deal with such issues but, more broadly, we need to talk about sex.

The majority of victims will not report or even talk about what has happened to them

Let’s be honest, the majority of people have sex and yet we still cringe and shy away from the conversation. At the risk of going all ‘Mean Girls’ on you, if we call each other sluts and whores, it just makes it okay for other people to call us sluts and whores, and makes it even harder for victims of sexual abuse to come forward at the risk of being judged or blamed for someone else’s actions.

So let’s talk about sex. Let’s talk about consent. Let’s address the issue that is prevalent within universities and on a far larger scale which is ruining people’s lives. I don’t go out, because I’m not going to when being on the dance floor is considered consenting to someone grabbing my arse or shouting vulgar comments at me, only to be offended when I tell them where to go.

If we call each other sluts and whores, it just makes it okay for other people to call us sluts and whores

Come on, we all know that hanging out the passenger side of your best friend’s drive trying the ‘holla’ at someone is not a successful way to get someone’s attention. It does, however, make them feel extremely uncomfortable and makes people scared to walk alone at night.

This money is a fantastic opportunity to educate and support. We need to address the current norms of society in order to prevent issues such as rape and sexual abuse. Universities have a responsibility to protect their students. Further education and support is needed.

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