It’s Sexual abuse and sexual violence awareness week, 4-10 February, and the perfect opportunity to remind students that Cardiff University has a zero tolerance policy for violence and abuse. Please read on for more information about sexual violence and how to access support.
The term “sexual violence” is an an all-encompassing, non-legal term that refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. For more information, please search ‘violence and abuse‘ on the Intranet. Many of these crimes are described below:
- Stalking e.g. repeatedly being followed or watched by someone;
- Rape e.g. being forced to have vaginal, anal or oral sex;
- Unwanted touching e.g. pinching, patting, embracing, rubbing, groping, flicking, kissing, fondling, being touched on the breasts, bottom, legs etc;
- Sexual harassment e.g. dirty jokes or rude comments about a person’s sex life;
- Obscene gestures e.g. simulating masturbation in front of a person;
- Voyeurism e.g. being watched doing intimate things without permission;
- Sex-related insults e.g. calling someone a slut, dyke, homo, slag etc;
- Pressuring for dates or demand for sex e.g. invitations that turn into threats or not taking ‘no’ for an answer; Indecent exposure e.g. someone showing private parts of their body or ‘flashing’ their genitals;
- Being forced to watch or participate in porn e.g. taking a photo without permission, forcing someone to be on video, making someone watch a pornographic movie;
- Offensive written material e.g. dirty notes, letters, phone messages, emails, SMS, pictures;
- Incest/child sexual assault e.g. a family member e.g. father or brother engaging in sexual activity with a child or young person;
- Unwanted, offensive and invasive interpersonal communication through technologies such as mobile phones, internet social networking sites and email;
- Honour based sexual violence e.g. a sexual crime which is considered to have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family or community;
- Sexual Assault e.g. any type of sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Examples include: forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape;
- Female Genital Mutilation e.g. is the practice, traditional in some cultures, of partially or totally removing the external genitalia of girls and young women for non-medical reasons;
- Sextortion e.g. is to use guilt, power, or knowledge of certain secrecy, to force another person into having sex or performing sexual favours.
Sexual violence is #NotOn.
If someone experiences sexual violence, it is never their fault. The responsibility lies solely on the perpetrator. Whether the victim was drunk, perceived as clothed/behaving in a promiscuous way, seemed to be suggestive or “not quite with it” is irrelevant. To believe these are reasons for sexual assault is a cultural myth. As mentioned above, the motive for sexual violence is not sex, but dominance, aggression and power over an individual. If you commit a sexual act without gaining consent, you are sexually assaulting someone and this is a criminal offence.
Sadly, one of the most common forms of sexual violence is sexual harassment. It happens every day across the country, even on university campuses. It’s time to end harassment, but we need your help. Find out more about becoming an empowered bystander.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is the unwelcome and persistent disturbance and torment of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive. This can be verbal, visual, or physical and often creates a hostile environment and can affect the functioning of the targeted individual. Some behaviours only need to happen once to constitute sexual harassment. Examples of sexual harassment include:
- Comments, jokes or remarks regarding a person’s body, sexuality or gender
- Requesting sexual favors or consistently asking a person out
- Threats or spreading rumours about a person’s personal or sexual life
- Non-consensually obtaining pictures, photos, and drawings of an individual
- Sending unwanted e-mails or texts of a sexual nature
- Sexually assaulting a person through attempting or successfully carrying out inappropriate touching
- Impeding or blocking movement
- Staring or leering making the individual uncomfortable
It can be difficult to identify sexual harassment and verbalise what has happened. Sometimes we are unable to express exactly what we believe has happened. We may be uncertain of why it happened or whether what happened was acceptable, especially if the perpetrator is known to you. You may be left embarrassed or uncomfortable without fully understanding why these are common reactions. Talking to someone about your unease can help objectify the situation and understand whether what has occurred crosses your personal boundaries. Whether you identify the behaviour as sexual harassment or not, a discussion with a confidant can at the very least help establish your own boundaries of what is acceptable or not.
Everyone is entitled to a safe and healthy environment, be it at work, at university, or within a household. Sexual harassment breaches an individual’s right to a safe environment and can affect their ability to achieve their ambitions. Regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or religion, everyone deserves to be treated with respect and as an equal.
If someone is sexually harassing you, you are within your rights to report that person. In some situations, speaking to the person and making them aware of their inappropriate conduct is enough to stop the behaviour. If a behaviour makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to tell the person to stop. If they don’t stop, you have the right to ask your university or workplace to intervene. In a university setting, we can intervene if the person harassing you is another student or staff member.
Sexual harassment affects our lives in intricate and intense ways. This is because it is the product of larger forms of individual and institutional oppression that we are exposed to. Commonly effecting young people, women, Black and Ethnic Minority women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, it can be seen as heavily affecting minority groups who are subject to discrimination and inequality.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi – “No one is free when others are oppressed.”
Who can I tell about my experience with sexual violence?
Cardiff University takes a zero tolerance approach to acts of sexual violence and harassment, so if you are the target of such behaviour there are various options for support:
- Start by talking to a trusted friend.
- If you choose to disclose to our team, your disclosure can remain anonymous or you can choose to identify yourself so we can contact you and offer support. For both options, please use our online disclosure tool.
- If the incident has occurred at work (or outside of university), inform your general manager.
- If your performance at university has been affected, it may be helpful to inform your personal tutor or supervisor.
Remember, if you have experienced any form of violence or abuse, it is not your fault and we are here to support you. Reaching out to the Disclosure Response Team may feel like a difficult step. Please know we can help, we will offer a non-judgmental and listening ear, and we will believe you.
WE KNOW, violence and abuse affects our students. IT’S NOT ON, and we are addressing it. WE CAN HELP, our Disclosure Response Team offer practical support. YOU CAN HELP, recognise the signs, tell us if you know a student is at risk.
WE CAN HELP
If you have experienced violence or abuse of any kind, you are entitled to free, non-judgmental support. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to us.
The Disclosure Response Team:
Let us know using the online disclosure tool.
hours: Monday to Friday, 09:00 – 16:30
phone: 029 2087 4844
out of hours: 0808 8010 800 (Live Fear Free Helpline)
search: ‘Violence and Abuse‘ on the student Intranet for more.
To find out more about protecting yourself and others, please read our ‘Personal Safety’ blog post. You can also view our Personal and Online Safety pages on the student Intranet. Please know, we provide this information to our students to ensure students are well informed on how to improve their personal and online safety. However, we absolutely would like to emphasise that someone who has experienced an incident of violence and abuse is not to blame.
YOU CAN HELP
As an individual, you have the power to affect real change by leading by example. You can play your part by:
- Understanding the power of your words
- Be sensitive and careful even when ‘joking’
- Consciously challenge your stereotypical beliefs on sex, gender, and traditional roles associated with both
- Speak up for what you believe in!
- Become an empowered bystander. The Bystander Effect states that we are less likely to intervene and help someone when part of a crowd. As the number of people present increase, the responsibility is diffused and often this results in someone being left helpless.
Your feedback and help please
Have you found this blog post useful? Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.
We’d also be grateful if you can share this information by re-tweeting or sharing with your fellow students who may find this useful – you can do this by using the share buttons or via twitter and facebook.
Nichola (Placement Student) and Sophie (HEFCE Marketing Project Lead),
Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team.
Your Student Life, Supported.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice and Money, Careers and Employability, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing, Disability and Dyslexia and International Student Support.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.