Despite touting itself as the “third safest university” in the country, Durham University, along with the University of Oxford, has the most cases of sexual assault out of the country’s universities. Recent sexual assault and rape cases over the past two years, as well as the new data on the sky-high sex attack figures in Durham, have altered Durham’s image as a safe haven for students.
Last October Durham’s Sexual Violence Task Force, underwent a change to become the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Operations Group, SVMOG. The change highlights an important step toward stemming the rising number of sex attacks which happen here. SVMOG offers students further specialist support after rape, increased faculty and student training, and, notably, the addition of a Student Support and Training Officer, offering training to all students beginning this academic year. The improvement in the University’s handling of sexual crimes, especially those committed by and against Durham students, indicates a movement in the right direction.
One group working to spread understanding about sexual assaults within universities is It Happens Here. Starting out in Oxford, another It Happens Here blog was created in Durham in 2013. They seek to “raise awareness about issues surrounding sexual violence, consent and rape culture and working with members of Durham University and the wider community to ensure that Durham is a safe place for all people”. Already, It Happens Here has been able to help the University create a clear policy on University Sexual Violence, clarifying the steps one needs to take after such an incident occurs.
It Happens Here offers a range of information from the statistics of sexual violence at Durham to clearing up common misconceptions and myths that surround rape and sexual assault. They also have posted a comprehensive guide on what to do after you have been attacked and advice on how best to support a friend who has experienced assault.
Despite increased awareness on how common these attacks can be or how to stay safe at night, universities often offer students a false sense of security. The Durham ‘bubble’ makes most of us more trusting and less observant. Universities offer a setting of increased alcohol consumption and, at times, a sense of entitlement, a dangerous combination. Now that Durham University has used its resources to make reporting sex attacks easier, students need to remember that, beyond awareness, notifying the proper authorities and fighting one’s case is the most important step to making Durham a safer city.
To learn more about It Happens Here and to take advantage of their resources, visit their blog at https://ithappensheredurham.wordpress.com/about/
Or if you have been a victim of an assault or attack, you can go directly to the University’s website for support at https://www.dur.ac.uk/svtf/support/