Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

An interview with the founders of It Happens Here Warwick

CW: discussion of sexual violence

For any Warwick students that were around during the 2018-2019 academic year, you’ll most certainly remember the marches and campaigns that occurred on campus to stand in solidarity with women, non-binary students and those most at risk of sexual assault on campus. I remember the atmosphere of the women’s march in February 2019 and the power that came with such a large group of students of all genders standing against the culture of sexual harassment and violence.

It is amidst the growing desire among students to speak out and stand up in solidarity against sexual violence that a group of students founded a new society aiming to “actively tackle the problem of sexual violence through campaigns, education and work with both the SU and the university.”

It Happens Here Warwick has been founded over the past few months and currently utilises social media to “offer non-professional support to those affected by sexual violence” and more generally offer a community and a place for students who have experienced sexual assault and violence to have a voice.

The Boar caught up with the President and Vice-President of It Happens Here Warwick.

How did the idea for It Happens Here come about?

Tasha Hardaker, Vice-President of It Happens Here Warwick: “It started with us noticing campus culture and lad culture that students experience on nights out. We both had personal experiences but I wanted to start a Survivor’s Society and the day that I was going to send in my application into the Student’s Union (SU), I was on Facebook and saw that someone had posted in the Fresher’s group chat about a society called It Happens Here which was dealing with the same sort of topics that I wanted to tackle.”

D. Saxelby, President of It Happens Here Warwick: “My motivations were simply helping other people like me who might want a place to find others who have been through similar things and provide them with resources and an opportunity to advocate. It was tricky to set up by I had lots of meetings with the SU Officers who were all supportive.”

What were your personal reasons for wanting to start It Happens Here Warwick?

T“The reason I wanted to do it was because of a bad experience that I had during Fresher’s week involving drink spiking. I look back at that night and the only thing I can remember was waking up and speaking to security. I saw the culture on campus which allowed this kind of thing to happen.”  

D – “After being raped on campus in my first year, I really struggled with feeling like I was alone. I had therapy in my second year and started to understand that it would have really helped me to speak with other survivors, and when I started to feel ‘better’ about my experiences I realised that I wanted to create a society that could provide what I felt like I had needed.”

What kind of response did you receive from the Warwick community?

T“We had a lot of people who wanted to get involved. There was a really good response. It was a mix of people too – it wasn’t just female students. However, some of the reaction from Warwick hasn’t been great. There was a WarwickFessions post claiming that rape culture at Warwick doesn’t exist. On the whole though, the Warwick community has been very supportive. Lots of people shared the article that I wrote about rape culture. We’ve had a lot of good feedback. I’ve had people who were Warwick alumni that messaged and said thank you for doing what you’re doing and that Warwick has needed something like this for so long”

What kinds of things do you do as a society?

T“We’ve had a lot of people share their stories with us but at the moment, all we are doing is providing resources as an informal place for people to go and talk. Talking about sexual assault, harassment, rape culture, rape etc will help people have an awareness of it and it will stop being a taboo. When we start talking about it and educating people about it, we will finally start to see changes”

Currently, the It Happens Here Warwick Facebook and Instagram pages are a place to share resources and creative pieces related to consent and sexual violence. Every Sunday, they share work created by members as part of #SpeakOutSunday. They have plans to work on SU campaigns next year such as #WeGetConsent, Report + Support, and generally just supporting the work of the SU to make the campus a safer place.

D“We are keen to set up some self-defence classes to build the confidence of anyone worried about experiencing assault or violence. We also plan to do a number of campaigns as well as socials to provide an aspect of community and support. We’re hoping to set up some sort of walk home service after POP! to help students who may fear walking back on their own.”

What are your plans for the future?

T“We have a lot of plans to collaborate with other universities. We’re also working with Not On My Campus and we’re trying to get involved with national campaigns to make clubbing safer for students. We’re working with the Leamington Street marshals and one of our ideas is creating an app so that students know which streets are well-lit and we have a lot of plans to try and keep the campus safe.”

D“We do interact with other universities and there is an amazing group called Not on my Campus UK who run campaigns and support societies like us. We’re hopefully planning on launching a national campaign. We would also love to set up a support group but this requires external training and would require us to be overseen by the SU so this might take a few years.”

Why Warwick?

D“I think this is a problem that all universities face. I, of course, want to start the force for change at Warwick with the hope that other universities will follow suit. Every cause and campaign has to begin somewhere and, for me, starting at Warwick seemed like a good place when it’s such an issue nationwide and even worldwide.”

 

It Happens Here Warwick plans to make the campus safer for all students and their aims of providing support and a voice to students who have experienced sexual violence are extremely powerful. I’m sure lots of Warwick students identify with the experiences that the society’s founders have shared.

The most important thing that I took away from this interview is that we must continue having conversations surrounding sexual violence and rape culture as raising awareness and educating others are the only ways that we are going to create change.

For anyone who has been affected by the issues raised in the article, Warwick SU has a section on their website dedicated to sexual violence which can be found here. #WeGetConsent is a campaign to build a safer community at Warwick for all students. Coventry Rape and Sexual Assault Centre provides counselling and information for anyone who has experienced sexual violence or assault. The National Rape Crisis Helpline is 0808 802 9999.

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