NUS is today launching a campaign called #StandByMe to demand out-of-date guidelines are repealed to protect victims of sexual assault on campus.
The project is being unveiled today as 25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It also marks the first of 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.
The #StandByMe campaign will bring together rape crisis centres, universities and colleges to improve support for survivors of sexual assault and rape.
NUS has partnered with Rape Crisis to call for the Zellick guidelines followed by institutions to be repealed. The 1994 Zellick report failed to mention safeguarding for survivors and focused instead on protecting institutions’ reputations.
It stated serious offences like rape should not be investigated by universities and need to be dealt with by the police before internal action is taken. This is concerning as NUS’ Hidden Marks research showed only 10 per cent of students who were seriously sexually assaulted reported it to the police.
Susuana Amoah, NUS women’s officer, said:
“We are facing a national crisis of sexual assault on campus. Universities are systematically flawed when it comes to reporting systems, disciplinary procedures and survivor support. It is deeply worrying that students don’t know where to turn or feel like they won’t be taken seriously if they report anything.
“A new system is desperately needed as the Zellick guidelines fail to look after students. NUS will be working hard to make sure the student voice is taken into consideration when new policies are developed.”
The #StandByMe campaign calls for a consultation which listens to the student movement and specialist services in order to develop new reporting and disciplinary guidelines and survivor support.
The project follows NUS’ women’s campaign work on sexual harassment over the last five years, which includes the implementation of I Heart Consent workshops and lad culture research which has highlighted how prolific sexual harassment is.
In October, NUS published the results of a lad culture and sexism survey showing nearly one in five students were sexually harassed during the first week of university. Despite this, more than sixty per cent of freshers were unaware of reporting procedures at their institution, which reinforces the need for an overhaul of the system.
The findings of NUS’ Lad Culture and Sexism survey can be found here.