‘It Happens Here’ is a recently formed student society aimed at tackling sexual violence within Durham University and the local community. The group aims to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence within the University, support survivors, educate people about consent and remove harmful myths surrounding the issues of sexual assault. The group emphasises the fact that many are oblivious to the pervasiveness of sexual violence in universities: one in four female undergraduates have experienced sexual assault. ‘It Happens Here’ does not limit the reach of its activism to female victims, of course: it highlights the fact that anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator of sexual violence.
Members of the society dedicate their time to running workshops and campaigns around the University aiming to educate people in order to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual assaults in Durham itself. The society also has a blog used to provide survivors of sexual violence with a platform that they can use to communicate their stories, which is a hugely important tool as the difficulty of speaking out after a rape or assault can be a hugely traumatic and difficult experience. ‘It Happens Here’ is also dedicated to providing survivors with the resources they need to access appropriate psychological, emotional and medical care required following an attack.
16 Days of Activism is a United Nations campaign aimed to reduce violence against women and girls around the world. The period runs from the 25th of November – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – to the 10th of December – Human Rights Day. During this period the UN aim to raise global awareness of the plight of women and girls around the world, many of which experience sexual violence, particularly in conflict zones in which atrocities like rape are used as weapons by military personnel. The campaign is fronted by the call to ‘Orange the World’ where numerous global landmarks are coloured orange (the colour of the campaign), often through the use of light displays in order to demonstrate global support for the elimination of violence against women. On social media, the hashtag #orangetheworld is similarly being used to draw attention to the attempt to galvanize action to end violence against women.
So what is going on for the 16 Days campaign in Durham? On November 25, there was a talk with Andrea Pino and Annie E. Clark, the creators of ‘End Rape on Campus’ and the focus of the documentary The Hunting Ground, detailing their experiences of American universities and how this can be translated to Britain. On the same day, members of the society had a meeting with Andrea and Annie which has now been published on their blog. On December 1, It Happens Here teamed up with DUFemSoc to provide a free consent workshop and discussion as a result of praise from colleges for the society’s previous workshops. The aim of combining the two similarly motivated societies is to reach a wider audience in order to raise awareness and educate people on the issues surrounding consent. ‘It Happens Here’ is also interviewing Nicole Westmarland, co-director for the Centre of Research into Violence and Abuse and a Professor of Criminology at the University. The interview will also be published on the blog.
‘It Happens Here’ will also be updating their website on a regular basis with blog posts, interviews and articles. Follow their social media on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated with their events throughout the academic year.