I will always remember the day I decided to firm my Warwick offer. It was 6 February 2019 and a student protest echoed across campus. I felt inspired by all the students speaking out against the group chat scandal. It was important to me that a student voice was being heard, even if it was too late. Despite my mother’s concerns, I decided I wanted to go to a university where students so passionately advocated for the vulnerable. It was only when I got to Warwick that I realised how wrong my utopian view was.
I have had many nights out where I have been ‘felt up’ and harassed. For a while, I decided it was in my interest not to go out, instead isolating myself in my room to focus my studies. But then I realised that I was sick of being told to not drink, to not go out, to not dress how I like, because I was ‘asking for it’. This common misconception feeds into rape culture. I should not have to start thinking like a victim; society must stop thinking from the perspective of rapists.
WarwickFessions has become a much-needed platform for victims of sexual assault and rape during lockdown. The bravery of people speaking out amazes me and I am always touched by how the majority of students are supportive in the comments. But you have to ask yourself, if these victims are receiving support, if students are willing to protest for justice, why is it so rarely achieved?
I should not have to start thinking like a victim; society must stop thinking from the perspective of rapists
Unfortunately, the answer is due to the insufficient institutional level of action and the lack of widespread education of what is and isn’t acceptable. Not enough people in positions of power are condemning rape culture or denouncing the actions of culpable students. The group chat scandal was a wake-up call for all institutions and it should have been the turning point for Warwick. I am disappointed to say this is not the case.
I am Vice President of It Happens Here Warwick, which was, rather surprisingly, only created this year. Our aim is to provide resources, advice, and guide survivors and the people supporting them. A recent post on WarwickFessions and a string of messages on my Facebook have made me realise that offering resources is not enough. We need to be advocates for survivors, we need to have more of an active and assertive role within Warwick. I am shocked to see the amount of WarwickFessions posts written about the lack of justice victims have received. I have been messaged by students who have received no justice and had their claims disregarded.
Not enough people in positions of power are condemning rape culture or denouncing the actions of culpable students
Warwick, it’s time to wake up. After the controversy surrounding the university last year, I am appalled to have to write this article. At a grassroots level, many students and faculty members are supportive and are willing to speak out. Societies such as It Happens Here are participating and helping in the fight against rape culture. But at an institutional level, the investigation and complaints procedure must be scrutinised and reformed.
I often reply on WarwickFessions in the comment section to show people they have someone to talk to, but talking is no longer enough. A recent post stated that “rape culture does not exist at Warwick.” This comment could not be further from the truth. The definition of ‘rape culture’ in the Oxford Dictionary is “a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse”. You only have to read WarwickFessions to understand that this culture is prominent, you only have to overhear conversations at POP! to be aware of the problem. It makes me angry to read posts like this on an anonymous platform. The very nature of WarwickFessions is dangerous, as it permits the cowardly circulation of nasty and ill-researched comments. In a university where rape culture is prominent, some opinions will force survivors to go underground.
We can advocate, we can educate, but most importantly we can speak out
Some will ask me why I’ve decided to name myself and the answer is simple. I won’t be anonymous because if I am, I am only helping people hide. If I am anonymous, I am refusing to tie myself to a topic which needs to be addressed. I would be helping fear triumph. It’s time to speak out. It’s time to say no. It’s time to start taking an active role in the fight against sexual harassment, assault, and rape. This is your wake-up call. This should create controversy; it should create a stir.
Rape culture exists everywhere, and it would be naïve if we didn’t recognise that. We cannot change the whole of society, but what we can do is change the nature of our university. We can advocate, we can educate, but most importantly we can speak out.