Students Are Using Snapchat To Share Their Experiences Of Sexual Assault
The Debrief: Young women from Bristol University shared videos of themselves discussing their experiences for the #RevoltAgainstSexualAssault campaign
News of sexual assault at British universities is, sadly, not uncommon. And even when it’s not spoken about there’s an unspoken, tacit and underlying understanding that it’s 'just something that happens to people in that environment'. Needless to say, that in itself is a huge problem.
Facts and figures that have rolled out over the years only continue to confirm the severity of this problem and yet, while steps to introduce things like a government backed 'zero-tolerance' approach to 'lad culture', rape and harassment and the odd consent course are all signs of progress, it’s clearly not tackling this huge issue well enough.
#RevoltAgainstSexualAssualt is a Snapchat campaign that’s giving voice to students at the University of Bristol who have experienced sexual assault. The project was set up by Hannah Price, Online Editor of the university’s independent newspaper Epigram, who was inspired by two rape victims in India who used Snapchat to tell their stories last year.
‘Social media is second nature to millennials. Snapchat is a platform that is led by us’, Hannah wrote on the Epigram website. ‘While we’ve mastered the filters, the media and businesses have been trying to work out a way to utilise the selfie-taking phenomenon. What if it would be used to powerfully humanise and address more serious issues?’
Ten women’s Snapchat entries were collated into a single video and in most of the clips, the women used emojis to cover their faces and conceal their identities as they describe their various experiences of rape, assault and harassment while studying at the Bristol university. One woman explained that since being a student at Bristol University she’s ‘been raped again three times and assaulted a lot’.
‘Every time it’s happened it’s been someone that I know, I like, I love and that I see all the time’, she said.
Bristol University said: 'These students have been very brave to speak out about their experiences and raise this issue publicly. Their safety and welfare, and the welfare of all our students, is vitally important to us and we are deeply troubled to hear these accounts. We are aware that sexual harassment is a significant issue and that we have a responsibility to take action to safeguard our students wherever possible'.
The National Union of Students (NUS) conducted the Hidden Marks survey in 2010. One in seven women who responded reported having been the victim of serious sexual assault or serious physical violence while at university or college. In 60 percent of the reported cases of sexual assault or stalking, the person who had committed these acts was also a student. Five years later, another NUS report found that there was a ‘startling’ lack of sexual harassment policies on campuses.
Bristol University said, however, that they have a 'have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment or violence of any form and clear policies are in place to deal with complaints'. The university has a mandatory digital induction to for new students which include content on sexual consent and also offers workshops. 'We recognise more needs to be done in this area and are currently reviewing and looking to build upon our work'.
Solutions to this university culture of sexual harassment are long overdue. The fact that these women have made this video only reiterates that. Beyond the walls of university campuses, we live in a society where, in England and Wales, approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped, and nearly half a million adults are sexually assaulted each year.
It's beyond courageous for these young women in Bristol to have come forward and spoken out to create more much-needed conversation around a reality that is faced by far too many people. But, the conversation they've brought back to the forefront can't afford to disappear once those Snapchat clips expire and something less difficult to address head on redirects our attention. More needs to be done to affect real change to a dangerous culture that has effectively been normalised under the guise of #unilife.
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