Next week on Wednesday 2nd December from 2:00pm – 4:30pm the School of Sociology, Social Work and Social Policy and Nexus NI are hosting a viewing of the critically acclaimed documentary, The Hunting Ground in the QFT. The event is entirely free for students and afterwards I will be sitting on a panel alongside representatives from the University and Nexus to discuss sexual violence on QUB and what can be done to address it.
For anyone who doesn’t know what the film is about, The Hunting Ground presents multiple students who allege that they were sexually assaulted at their college campuses, and that college officials either ignored them or required them to navigate a complex academic bureaucracy to have their claims addressed. The film implies that many college officials were more concerned with minimizing rape statistics for their universities than with the welfare of the students.
The screening is part of the wider campaign of the SU to address issues of consent and sexual violence on campus and it is something I made a personal promise to do in my year of office. If I asked the average student on the street what consent meant to them, it would be incredibly interested in what they say often it seems that for students it’s not clear cut and is a grey area for many. This is because of how society depicts our sexual and romantic relations, take the infamous Blurred Lines song which was banned in our SU a number of years ago.With lyrics like ‘You know you want it’ many Unions across the country took the step to ban it. In other songs such as Nick Jonas’ “Jealous”, which is everywhere, the same vile sentiments are expressed:
“I wish you didn’t have to post it out
I wish you’d save a little bit just for me
Protective or possessive, yeah
Call it passive or aggressive”
The sense of ownership and entitlement in these lyrics creates a worrying attitude that people are owned by their partners. And consent isn’t only restricted to bedrooms, it should also apply on the street, public transport and pubs/clubs. When you grab someone in a sexual way on the dance floor because you think it’s going to get you the shift – that’s sexual assault. Approaching someone on the street because you fancy them and being a little too persistent is harassment.
To my students who have been harassed, physically/verbally assaulted; firstly I want to say that it makes me incredibly angry that something like this has happened to you. It makes me incredibly angry that society continually fails in its duty to teach us that we cannot do things like this to each other. But I want you to know that there are services out there for you, to take care of you and to look after you. We as a Students’ Union hope to make these a lot more visible over the next year.
If you would like to get yourself a ticket to the screening then please click on the eventbrite link – they are going fast so get one soon!
Hope to see lots of you there,