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October 2, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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Vice-Chancellor Responds to Thursdays in Black Report

CW: Sexual Violence


VUW Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford has issued a response to the Thursdays in Black In Our Own Words report, which found that 83% of tertiary students surveyed have been sexually harassed on a university campus.

His announcement on September 11 discussed the steps VUW has taken to both change rape culture at the university, and to prevent students from being victims of sexual violence.

Guilford outlined the work done by the VUW Sexual Violence Prevention Working Group, which was set up in 2015 in order to improve the information available to the university regarding sexual violence, and review the policies and procedures in place for sexual violence disclosures.

In addition to these changes, free women’s self-defence courses are offered regularly on campus, and VUW is working with external support groups such as the Wellington Sexual Abuse Prevention Network to improve access to information and services.

“There is a commitment at all levels of this university to foster a culture of equity, inclusiveness and safety. It goes without saying that sexual harassment and sexual assault are a completely unacceptable affront to our values as a university community.”

Although Guilford acknowledged that the data presented in In Our Own Words was important in highlighting the need for a cultural shift, he pointed out that the “opt-in” nature of the survey meant the results differed from what they would have been if based on a randomised sample.

VUW has released data about the number of incidents of sexual assault and/or harassment that had occurred in VUW halls or on campus since 2010, stating that 32 incidents had been reported, with  three expulsions taking place as a result, and five incidents involving members of staff.

In Our Own Words discusses the mismatch between how sexual education is taught in secondary schools and people’s actual experiences, and the effect that this has on student’s interpersonal relationships, especially of a sexual nature.

The National Coordinator of Thursdays in Black, Izzy O’Neill, described the domino effect that poor sexual education can have on a student’s participation in education, their academic success, and retention at secondary and tertiary levels.

In Our Own Words has been praised by VUW Academic Samantha Keene, who told Salient, “conversations about the realities of sexual violence for student populations are finally taking place, and the report is a testament to the dedication and effort that people working in this space are putting in.”

Keene’s 2015 thesis, “Risky Residences”, was a watershed in addressing the gap in knowledge and understanding about sexual violence in VUW Halls of Residence.

Keene told Salient that while “the responses that are being incorporated at VUW are a great start, […] there is always more work to be done.”

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