Content note: sexual violence.
Sussex House was occupied on the 8th of March by protesters demanding that the University take more action against on-campus rape and sexual assault.
Following a demonstration to mark International Women’s Day, the ‘Stop Sexual Violence at Sussex’ group occupied the building, home to the offices of the Vice Chancellor Executive Group (VCEG).
The protestors conducted a sit-in in the lobby of Sussex House as part of a ‘flash occupation’, barricading the doors of the building with signs that read ‘consent’ and ‘rape happens here!’
The occupiers, who go by the name ‘Safer Sussex’, demanded “better support services for survivors of rape on campus; the introduction of mandatory sexual harassment and violence awareness; and training for all staff and students on campus”.
They also called on the University “to provide counselling on sexual violence and consent; to provide more support services on campus; to make the guidelines for reporting an incident of sexual assault clear and transparent; and to place notices in all Sussex campus accommodations on how to deal with sexual violence on campus.”
During their occupation, the protesters were addressed by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Claire Mackie, who listened to the demonstrators and signaled a willingness to discuss the issue further.
A University spokesperson told The Badger that Claire Mackie has agreed to meet with members of the Sussex House occupation and with Students’ Union reps “to discuss all aspects of student safety, our guidance and how this can be effectively communicated to everyone on campus”.
On International Women’s Day 2012, a petition with over 1,200 signatures was handed over to Registrar John Duffy by some 100 students wearing purple ribbons. The protesters called on the University to implement a host of reforms, which included staff training, signposting, support for students and a clear reporting process.
Four years on, and the activists claim the University has failed to meet all those original demands.
The University promised it would provide “equalities training from 2014/15 to all new University staff”. According to the University’s website, the course “encompass[es] sexual violence, harassment and discrimination”. However, SU Welfare Officer Rianna Gargiulo claims this has not been happening, and the University did not respond to a Badger enquiry on the subject.
If you require support in relation to sexual assault that you have experienced, you can contact Survivors’ Network or speak to a Student Life Advisor in the Student Life Centre on campus, as well as accessing the University’s counselling service.
The Student Life Centre has information online to help explain the options available for students who have experienced sexual assault as well as other sources of help and support.
Daniel Green and Freya Marshall Payne
Image credit: Cosmo Lo Sussex Facebook