University students fight to support victims of sexual assault

The University of Hertfordshire De-Havilland Campus. Picture: Herts Uni.

The University of Hertfordshire De-Havilland Campus. Picture: Herts Uni. - Credit: Archant

The University of Hertfordshire’s students have been coming together to fight for support for victims of sexual violence. 

The students of the university are feeling unsafe and are asking for some necessary changes to be made in terms of safety requirements, NDAs for sexual assault cases and lacklustre sexual violence-related campaigns.  

Multiple Instagram groups led by current students and alumnae, such as Herts Safe Space and Not On My Campus UK have been working towards talking to universities to make them feel safer and address how these issues are dealt with. 

Over a week ago, students from Herts Safe Space had emailed the Vice Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire, asking why they had not signed the pledge to not use NDAs, and the university has since responded to these claims. 

The students of the University are feeling unsafe and are asking for some necessary changes to be made.

The students of the University are feeling unsafe and are asking for some necessary changes to be made in terms of safety requirements, NDAs for sexual assault cases and lacklustre sexual violence related campaigns. - Credit: Herts Safe Space

A spokesperson from the university said, “We never have, and never will, use Non-Disclosure Agreements in sexual misconduct cases at the University of Hertfordshire, either for student or staff cases.

“The University of Hertfordshire contributed to the UUK’s Changing Culture report, which examines violence against women, harassment and hate crime against university students.  

"We embrace the report’s recommendations to take a coordinated, institution-wide approach to manage the risks of sexual violence, meet the needs of those affected, and create a culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

"We expect everyone in our community to share this responsibility and uphold our values. We need to keep listening, keep acting and keep supporting.  

"As a result, and in discussion with the Hertfordshire Students’ Union President, Rhiannon Ellis, the University of Hertfordshire has recently signed the Can’t Buy My Silence pledge, a campaign committed to ending the practice of using Non-Disclosure Agreements in sexual harassment cases in the Higher Education sector,” the spokesperson added. 

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The Herts Safe Space group is confused by the response received, as they believe it is irrelevant when the university claims there was no use of NDAs from the start - so it does not make a difference to sign it - and their main issue was with the support received.  

This group is led by three female students, and two of them have been harassed on campus before. They have seen multiple stories on social media from students and staff members who have been sexually harassed or worse on campus, but say they have not received the help they were looking for from the university. 

“We have recently seen the extent of sexual assault that goes on at our university and the lack of support there is. There have been small events etc. That no one attends due to lack of advertising,” Herts Safe Space said. 

The University had also advertised a new #NeverOK campaign, lobbied by the Student Union President, which is focused on ensuring students are safe and can access appropriate support when needed.  

The University had also advertised a new #NeverOK campaign, lobbied by the Student Union President.

The University had also advertised a new #NeverOK campaign, lobbied by the Student Union President, which is focused on ensuring students are safe and can access appropriate support when needed. - Credit: Gopika Madhu

This campaign received a lot of backlashes from students that commented on the campaign post on Instagram, stating that the university already said it had a zero-tolerance policy in place before but there is still very little, if not zero support and help for students who have been sexually assaulted and/or harassed, and they have not yet seen this policy being enforced.  

Students also claimed that the Student Union page of the University had been deleting any negative comments relating to the campaign. 

Herts Safe Space added, “We want the university to hold students accountable when they sexually assault others and support victims in any way they can, from counselling, signposting, group sessions and more. The pledge signing is all well and good but the fact is that they are still not helping and that is a big issue."

To know more about Herts Safe Space on Instagram, go to: SAFE SPACE @ HERTS (@hertssafespace)

For more information go to https://www.herts.ac.uk/about-us/news-centre/news/2022/the-universitys-statement-on-the-use-of-non-disclosure-agreements-in-sexual-misconduct-cases