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Nouse interviews The Last Taboo founders on their University of York report

Content Warning: This article contains references to and statistics of sexual assault

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Image Credit: Kelly Balmer

Yesterday, 10 April, The Last Taboo released their University of York sexual assault report, which was constructed via consultations with the student body at the University (to read more on this, follow this link to our report on it). To get a fuller understanding of their report, its significance and the Last Taboo’s activity of the past year more generally, Nouse interviewed founders Kelly Balmer and Imogen Horrocks.

The first thing we asked the pair was what response they would like to see from the University after they have received the report. They explained, “while we are grateful to have received the opportunity to meet with the Academic Registrar and the Pro-Vice Chancellor, we are still waiting to receive a response from the Vice-Chancellor in regards to the open letter we sent on 30 November, which received 270 signatures.”

Balmer and Horrocks continued – “In relation to the report, we would like a public response from the University addressed to all students with a promise of working harder and more proactively in taking steps forward to tackle sexual violence on campus by listening to their views and recommendations outlines within our report.”

Moving forward, they highlighted that “outlining the problems at York is not enough and it isn’t a proactive narrative, a proactive narrative is providing recommendations to address the problems at hand, which is what we have done in this report.” The report itself features multiple recommendations made from both staff and students at the University.

Following these recommendations, we asked how they would like this report to reach other universities in the UK. On this, they “hope that the recommendations provided within the University of York report will act as a rough outline to some of the ways that universities can begin to make proactive steps. The recommendations outlined in the report are specific to the University of York but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be useful to other universities.”

Concerning other universities, the report mentions that, whilst York still needs improvements, our University’s system is better than other universities. We asked Balmer and Horrocks to expand on this, and explain what York is doing that other universities aren’t. They said:

“The University of York has two full-time Sexual Violence Liaison Officers, this is something we are incredibly lucky to have access to as students. The few univerisities that offer this resource generally only provide students with a part-time Sexual Violence Liaison Officer who often has responsibilities in other roles. The universities that do have a full-time Sexual Violence Liaison Officer generally only have one.”

Despite the fact that York is seemingly better than other universities does not mean that our campus is free from sexual violence, which was most evidently highlighted in the statistics within the report. Due to the fact that there is a vast number of statistics within it, we asked the pair to state what shocked them the most. Some of these statistics are as follows:

  • 91 percent of students feel that the University has a duty to educate students on issues of sexual assault an harassment, however only 11.1 percent agree that they feel educated on sexual assault and harassment.
  • Only 26 percent of students feel that they know how to report sexual violence to the University, with only 20 percent knowing of ‘Report and Support’ – the University’s online student misconduct reporting tool.

However, the pair told us that it was not the statistics alone which shocked them. They said that “the most powerful thing that these reports contain are the direct quotes from students. These quotes outline a range of personal experiences in relation to sexual violence and the way these experiences have been handled within the university community. They clearly express a lot of frustration, but that is something that we hope this report will help ease.”

The report’s magnitude, as mentioned previously, is largely due to the fact that it is separated into different groups at the University. For example, there is a ‘Mens focussed report’, ‘BAME focussed report’ and an ‘LGBTQ+ focussed report’ etc. We asked the pair why it was so important to have these separate reports instead of a generalised one. They explained that:

“Sexual violence affects people in many different ways and recongising the experience of marginalised groups with in our community was essential to building a detailed picture of student experience. We wanted to ensure that we took an inclusive and intersectional approach to give every student the opportunity to have their voice listened to and understood by the University.”

They continued – “When starting The Last Taboo we struggled to find any statistics outlining the impact that sexual violence has on the LGBTQ+ and the BAME student community. We wanted to change this. While our report outlines data specific to students at the University of York, we have left the LGBTQ+ and the BAME student consultations open for students from all UK universities to have their voice heard. We are hoping to use the data from these consultations to produce a UK-wide university report specific to the LGBTQ+ and BAME communities respectively.”

Finally, one of the main sections of the report, and one of the features of The Last Taboo’s social media presence, are their pledges from students at York. We asked them to explain why it was important to collate these pledges, and what impact they have seen from receiving them. They stated:

“These pledges have been a fundamental part to raising awareness of sexual violence within the University of York as well as highlighting the need for discussions around the issue to take place. Building a community on campus where sexual violence is not tolerated is vital.

“These pledges allowed a range of student groups to take a public stand against sexual violence and show their members/supporters that they stand with those who have experienced sexual violence.

“Since these pledges have been made by student leaders and groups at York we have seen increased information on the issue of sexual violence being shared amongst our student community, as well as more information on support services available to students. Over the coming months we will be checking in with the students and staff that have pledged for us to see how they have implemented their pledges.”

You can follow the Last taboo on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. They also have a website, which has more content and the full reports for students to read.

If you have been affected by the issues within this article, or have concerns about sexual violence visit reportandsupport.york.ac.uk or call Rape Crisis on: 0808 802 9999.

Links to support:

Report and Support tool: https://reportandsupport.york.ac.uk/

Employee support from the University:

https:// www.york.ac.uk/admin/hr/browse/health-and-well-being/employee-assistance

Student support from the University:

https://www.york.ac.uk/students/health/advice/sexual-violence/

Visit the Rape Crisis website at: www.Rapecrisis.org.uk

Or call Rape Crisis on: 0808 802 9999




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