This blog post was written by Simran Grewal, a recent graduate.
University is an important milestone for a lot of students, the beginning of their journey into adulthood. For many, it’s a time to explore independence and mingle with new people, whilst discovering new levels of knowledge. However, these university experiences are increasingly becoming tainted, as sexual violence and harassment across universities in the UK are becoming prevalent.
In 2018, Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room conducted research that found ‘62% of all students and recent graduates surveyed had experienced sexual violence’. Further research showed that only ‘6% of those who had experienced sexual assault or harassment reported their experience to the university’ and only ‘2% felt both able to report it to their university and were then satisfied with the reporting processes‘. These statistics suggest that universities aren’t meeting their responsibilities in making campuses safe, and responding appropriately when assaults do happen.
An example of a university incident regarding sexual violence and harassment, is the infamous incident that has become known as the ‘University of Warwick Rape Chat’ that occurred in 2018. Male students had made horrific rape threats against their female peers on a group chat, and although two of the students were banned from the campus for 10 years, this sentence was reduced to 12 months, raising concerns about the way in which the university was handling the investigation, and their priorities in ensuring the safety and care of their students. The way in which universities respond to reports of sexual violence, sets a precedence concerning student wellbeing. However, ‘many universities in England have no dedicated staff to investigate hate crimes or sexual misconduct’, whilst some universities ‘use the same disciplinary hearings for sexual violence that they use for plagiarism’. The lack of staff, regulations, and aftercare at Universities negatively impacts students who need the support, resulting in feelings of isolation.
The common phrase, ‘prevention is better than the cure’, should be taken into account by Universities in regards to sexual violence. A survey conducted by Brook & Dig-In, found that ‘only 15% said unwanted sexual behaviour counted as sexual harassment, and only half (52%) said they understood that someone could not consent to sex if they were drunk’. This shows the lack of understanding surrounding sexual violence and harassment, and perhaps, preventative measures such as better sex education in schools, are urgently needed. Nevertheless, not all Universities are neglecting their duty. For example, Edinburgh University recently held events focused on the importance of consent during their Fresher’s Week, in collaboration with the Consent Collective.
If you have been affected by sexual violence at university, you can speak to our friendly team about emotional and practical support available to you on 0121 643 0301 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call the helpline on 0121 643 4136
A Disorder For Everyone is returning to Birmingham for the 3rd time to launch the upcoming book challenging the culture of psychiatric diagnosis. RSVP have contributed a chapter to the book and we’re excited to be co-presenting the event that will feature a talk by RSVP Chief Exec Lisa Thompson.
There’ll be a variety of speakers and workshops plus stalls by PCCS Books, RSVP, The Freedom Project, Mayday Trust, Bradford Soteria, Safely Held Spaces (and others to be confirmed).
This day is for anyone who is interested in and concerned about the current debates in ‘mental health’. Places should be booked in advance via this link
Hi, I’m Maddison. I am an ISVA for children and young people and the newest member of the team here at RSVP. I joined the ISVA team at the beginning of May, and would love to take the opportunity to introduce myself and tell you some of the things I have been up to in my first month. Things may (will definitely) get a little cheesy, but bear with me…
I can honestly say that after day one, I felt like a part of the team. Everyone here has been so incredibly welcoming and supportive. No amount of questions is too many, and everyone has made me feel included and accepted me for who I am. In fact, being myself has not only been accepted, it has been encouraged. It is clear that individuality is celebrated at RSVP, and I have found that to be refreshing, beautiful and liberating. Walking into RSVP means walking into a safe space full of big-hearted supporters that truly care. So for me, I feel quite at home, as I too have so much passion for helping others and advocating for survivors.
Having worked in schools following university, I knew that I loved working with and helping children and young people. However, I also knew that what I truly wanted to do was help young survivors of sexual violence and help make a difference. As a survivor myself, I recognised the invaluable support of having an ISVA. I learnt that whilst no one can take the pain away, someone could help guide you through what can feel like an all-consuming darkness. They can help you see that you are not alone and that the light and colour will return. So, I took the plunge. I decided to go for it and begin my ISVA training. I always aspired to work for RSVP but I dared to hope that could become my reality. Their beliefs and ethos matched my own, and I truly respected all their hard work and commitment. The spirit of this charity shines through everything they do; you can feel it as soon as you walk through the door.
It is safe to say then, I was fairly ecstatic to be starting here. From my first day, with my excitement (and nerves!) in tow, I have not been disappointed. The job has somehow exceeded my expectations: I find myself utilising my passion and experience so much from sessions with clients, observing at court and learning from, and being supported by, the lovely ISVA team. I also love how being an ISVA means offering holistic support. It means giving survivors emotional and practical support in many ways: from report and possible court proceedings, to supporting at intimate medical appointments, and from liaising with schools and colleges on their behalf, to enabling clients to access therapy. ISVAs support survivors throughout their journey whilst allowing them to be in control, feel empowered and know that they are truly believed.
It may sound strange to some that I enjoy my job, but I will take my recent experience at court to offer you an example of my love for this work. I was sitting in the public gallery as a survivor took the stand. In my eyes, she was taking a stand. A stand against what happened to her and a stand against sexual violence. I found myself wanting to send her some sort of telepathic message to say “I am here with you. You are not alone. You do not stand alone”. So, in a strange summary, that is how I feel and that is my message to all survivors. Whilst each person’s experience is different, whatever your position and however it is you feel, you are not alone and you are worthy.
Lady Gaga, in a live performance of ‘Til it happens to you’, had survivors walk onto the stage towards the end and stand hand in hand with her. They raised their arms together and the crowd stood to join them. I found it to be one of those incredibly powerful and goose-bumpy moments. So when you feel scared, alone, or nothing at all, perhaps picture survivors and believers all standing behind you or hand in hand, and know that you may feel lonely, but you are never alone.
RSVP are delighted to announce that we are organising a Will Month in May in conjunction with local will writing firm BensonWilliams.
This will firstly help our supporters to purchase a very necessary product, and secondly it will help us to raise much needed funds to help us to continue providing our services for survivors.
Here’s how it works. One of BensonWilliams representatives will arrange to meet with you. On completion they will charge their standard fee, currently £120 for single Wills and £160 for mirrored Wills, but 50% of that fee will then be donated back to RSVP on your behalf by BensonWilliams.
Jim at BensonWilliams:
There are many reasons why it may be advisable for you to make your Will. The single biggest for any parent of a child below eighteen is protection of that child. The law is silent on the subject of guardianship of a minor, and children can very easily end up in care whilst custody decisions are being made. Also children below eighteen can’t inherit money as minors and it has to go into a trust for them. Making a Will means you control who becomes guardian for your children, and you decide who controls their money until they are eighteen.
There are of course many other reasons why people make Wills. For example you may be worried about an ex spouse or partner claiming on your estate, you may be in a second marriage, you may live with a partner but not be married. All of these circumstances create potentially problematic issues, but whatever your circumstances BensonWilliams will tailor things to your precise needs.
To take advantage of this scheme please forward your details to Sarah Lafford at RSVP. She will then forward your details to BensonWilliams so that they can contact you to arrange your appointment.
We are delighted to announce that the Home Office has agreed funding to enable 10 organisations to work towards the Independent Accreditation Programme for the Quality Standards for Services Supporting Male Victims/Survivors of Sexual Violence, at no cost to the agency.
We are extremely excited that RSVP has been selected to be one of the agencies funded. We can’t wait to start working alongside the Male Survivors Partnership in conjunction with LimeCulture CIC. These standards, once gained, will apply to our counselling service giving extra reassurance to the male survivors we support.
Thanks to the Home Office, Male Survivors Partnership and LimeCulture CIC for this amazing opportunity.
Read more here.
We’re consulting with people who have come to RSVP for counselling, or are waiting for counselling at RSVP. We want to know what difference counselling is making for you, how we can do things differently and improve our support for survivors. Survivors are at the centre of everything we do, and so your thoughts and contributions are really valuable.
We want to talk with you about the experience of waiting for counselling. Waiting times are long, and they’ve been increasing. We know how difficult it can be to wait for your one-to-one support to begin and so want to think of ways we can reduce waiting times. We also want to talk about people’s experience of counselling.
Long waiting times are sadly affecting survivors all over the country, as reported in the media last year https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/dec/11/sexual-assault-counselling-victims-services-demand-unprecedented-funding
We are organising some focus groups so people can talk about these issues in person. Anyone (over 18) who has accessed counselling from RSVP, or is waiting for counselling, can take part. They will take place in Birmingham city centre on
Wednesday 20th February 3.30-5pm
Thursday 21st March 1.30-3pm (straight after our monthly coffee morning)
Tuesday 26th March 6-7.30pm
If you would like to take part in a focus group, please contact Sarah Lafford 0121 643 0301 email@example.com
And if you would like to give feedback but cannot attend a focus group, there’s an anonymous online survey. We’d love to get as much feedback from survivors as we can…
The following post is written by Julie Whiteman of University of Birmingham who is currently researching how contemporary media representations of heterosexuality communicate ideas around sex and relationships, and looking at how this fits with sexual violence against women.
Here she looks at a review of Horvath, M. A. H., Hegarty, P., Tyler, S. and Mansfield, S. (2011) “Lights on at the end of the party”: Are lads’ mags mainstreaming dangerous sexism? from the British Journal of Psychology 103, pp. 454–471
This article was a landmark for me in my PhD literature review reading material. I was shocked by what I read, and it helped shape the research aims for my own research into how media work with people’s internal beliefs.
In this article Miranda Horvath and colleagues found that the young women and men in their study could not differentiate between the language of lads’ mags and that of convicted rapists. They also found that the language used in lads’ mags was considered more ‘extreme’ and that young men identified more with statements when they were attributed to lads’ mags.
The authors drew their sample quotes for the study (identified as expressing a ‘hostile sexism’) from a range of lads’ magazines. These magazines included articles which advocated their young male readers to get drunk, fake sincerity (to women), and to target “’vulnerable women’ for ‘sexual conquest’” (p455). The researchers also took quotes from interviews with convicted rapists, known to use “techniques of neutralization” (p456) i.e. language that diminishes their own responsibility and places it with women. The researchers found people had difficulty differentiating between the two, guessing correctly just 55% of the time – that is a 45% error rate of confusion between sources. Participants judged the content of lads’ mags to be more derogatory than that of the convicted rapists, and yet, when the statements were attributed to a lads’ mag, the men were more likely to identify with them.
This result led the authors to question the blurred boundaries of speech between the two sources. What this research does which previous research does not is to explore how young people make sense of the magazine articles they read, bringing into question the role these media play in the socialization of young people and addressing the denials of magazine editors that their publications are of no social influence. Horvath et al. argue that these magazines are a normalizing and legitimate source of information, that they have a normalising influence on the sexist beliefs they communicate about women. This was summarised by one participant in the study who claimed that the content was degrading but in a way that was OK because it was in a glossy magazine, or another who said that while the magazine didn’t condone rape, it used language that made it appear consensual.
While the lads’ mags market has changed significantly since this article was published I believe that its findings on the normalising effect of mainstream content holds true today. More research needs to be done to explore how online media are received by audiences and how the reach of social media is operating to shape socialization.
Below is a blog post written by Abigail, one of the performers in The Girl Behind the Glass. The piece explores some of the effects of sexual violence on a survivor and will be performed at the mac in Edgbaston at 3pm and 7pm on Thursday 8th Nov. All are welcome and tickets can be booked here https://macbirmingham.co.uk/event/the-girl-behind-the-glass-1
My name is Abigail and I am one of the performers in The Girl Behind The Glass by composer Chloe Knibbs, a piece which explores the shame and blame that is placed upon people who experience rape and sexual assault.
The piece is written for three musicians, (two singers and a cellist), who all represent an element of one person. As a singer I think that it is so important to be challenged by the projects that I take on and this has certainly been both musically challenging and thought-provoking. When we first started rehearsals for The Girl Behind The Glass for the work-in-progress performance in 2017, we were able to achieve a very open, trusting and supportive group dynamic, which really helped when discussing the issues surrounding rape and sexual assault.
At the start of the current rehearsal process we were also able to have a session with artist well-being practitioner Louise Platt, which was a wonderful way of reacquainting ourselves with the emotional nature of the piece and re-establishing our group dynamic in preparation to explore the piece and the subject matter again. I find that having had such open discussions in such a safe space, I am more confident about talking about sexual assault to my friends, family and colleagues and I hope that those who see the performance will be able to do so too.
My main goal as a performer, is to faithfully present what has been written by the composer, both musically and dramatically. Having Chloe involved in our musical rehearsals, combined with the fact that she is also directing the performance, is very reassuring. We started the rehearsal process by focusing on the music. Being able to ask Chloe specific questions about a certain passage phrasing or the emotional idea behind a melody has meant that I feel more able to give a realistic portrayal of the character both musically and emotionally. There are moments in the piece that as a singer intentionally verge on being uncomfortable vocally and emotionally. The bombardment of the girl by all the comments from friends and family in scene five, for example,lasts as long as we can push the levels of discomfort for both the performers and the audience. I found that performing to an audience, that were in close proximity to the stage area, to be very interesting indeed. I realised that some members of the audience could not look directly at us, as though they were intruding on something very personal. Whilst other audience members watched so intently as though they dare not look away.
What I have taken away from the performance and the rehearsal process, was a sense that having this topic presented as a piece of music theatre, was most definitely a success. Performances like this open up further discussion about rape and sexual assault by all involved performers and audience alike.
There will be two performances of The Girl Behind the Glass on the 8th November at mac Birmingham, at 3pm and 7pm. The shows will mark the 40th anniversary of the Rape and Sexual Violence Project and are supported by the PRS Women Make Music Scheme.
For further details, please see the following link: https://macbirmingham.co.uk/event/the-girl-behind-the-glass-1
We are looking for counsellors to join the team on a voluntary basis to support survivors of sexual abuse. As a charity, the contribution of volunteers to our work is so valuable. If you share our values of believing survivors, and going the extra mile to offer bold and big-hearted support, we’d love to hear from you.
Training will commence in January 2019. Both qualified and student counsellors are welcome to apply. There are10 spaces available. Please complete the attached application form and return it no later than Monday 12th November. If you have not heard from us by Friday 30th November you should assume you have been unsuccessful on this occasion.
Unfortunately we do not accept students on distance learning courses or qualified counsellors who do not hold a degree or diploma in counselling or psychotherapy.
Interviews will commence week beginning 3rd December:
The training will take place on the following dates if you are successful upon completing the application form and an interview:
Wednesday 16th, 23rd, 30th January 2019
The times will be 10am-4pm for all days and all dates must be attended.
We would like to say a huge thank you to a young person who recently kindly donated a bundle of cuddly toys to RSVP.
We were able to give these to children and young people who use our services which resulted in lots of big smiles.