The SCA Journey

In Features

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Written by SCA Society President, Laura Barr

I took over as President of SCA in late 2017, and this time almost exactly one year ago in 2018, I was having meetings with various members of staff to organise a new project myself and SCA wanted to do: understand what is really going on at the University of Southampton. This month, the University Council approved the action plan proposed to them.

Within that year, so much has happened. The survey we ran was a success, with 857 responses. We had 6 survivors bravely tell their stories in short films. As a student, I was able to be a central member of the sexual harassment, assault and rape working group, which included members of the union and university, and be centrally involved in the action plan that was presented to University Council this May. We got Yellow Door selected as the local charity of the year for RAG 2018/19. SCA held a month’s worth of events dedicated to raising awareness of sexual consent, led a sports and consent campaign, worked with Survivors UK and Yellow Door for speaker events, campaigns and awareness raising.

I worked with Martin Hiley, the Union’s Insight Manager, over the summer of Summer 2018 and met with multiple members of SUSU to develop this, including Isabella Camilleri, the current VP Welfare, Steve Gore, VP Sports and Acting President, and Sonia Cottrell, Director of Advice and Representation.

In November of 2018, we released the first ever all student survey Southampton University had seen. We teamed up with multiple other societies for various events, including Zumba+, Debating Society, Hung-Lung Kuen Fung Fu and many others to promote self-defence classes, promote consent, and promote the support available. Our aim was to find out the experiences of students themselves and listen directly to the student voice. I particularly wanted to capture LGBT+, BAME and male experiences as well, and their relation to accessibility with support services, as an area to identify and respond to as a more inclusive and wider picture of the student body. Our survey responses reflected generally the demographics of the wider student body.

Our first win came when a medicine student worked with me, the VP Welfare and Medsoc to propose funding for consent classes within the faculty of Medicine. This funding was approved in March 2019, and the classes are being currently trialled with Yellow Door. This was in response to a multitude of comments on the survey calling for more education and more mandatory classes to promote understanding of sexual consent on a more nuanced level.

Our next win came when Kerry Matthews, Director of Student Services at the University, secured funding for a highly qualified therapist with a specialisation in sexual trauma to help us from now over the next few months to keep the momentum of our action plan going and provide expertise.

Our most recent win is the endorsement of our action plan, which means the University has committed funding, resources and support to both response and prevention at the University. This was in response to 64% of the 857 students who responded to our survey reporting some incident(s) of sexual harassment, assault or rape. We presented this action plan on May 23 to the students and to stakeholders.

The journey has had its trials but overall, within a year we have all achieved real success, even if that is just simply listening to survivors. I hope you continue to support us in the years ahead as we continue to develop this.

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