Oxford University have today opened the new Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service to offer “a safe place for students to be heard”.
The service, the opening of which was revealed by Cherwell in February, will provide “independent advice and guidance” from trained specialist advisors as part of the service, the University have announced.
Oxford staff will now also be given training and advice on how to respond to sexual harassment and violence cases.
The launch of the service will form part of the Oxford Against Sexual Violence Campaign, which is jointly run by the University and Oxford SU. This collaborative project between colleges and the University will be delivered in association with Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre.
The service comes following recommendations from the University’s working group into sexual harassment and violence at the University, chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, former Principal of Mansfield College.
The service, which will offer “professional and confidential support and advice”, states on its website that it will support students regardless of the time or place the sexual harassment or violence took place. This support and advice will be available in a setting that is “independent” of students’ college or department.
The website offers a definition and examples of sexual harassment and violence, as well as information telling students how they should contact the service to speak to an advisor.
Oxford University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, Professor Martin Williams, said: “At Oxford, we are committed to preventing and responding to all incidents of sexual harassment and violence.
“It is never acceptable, and we take a zero tolerance approach. We already have a range of measures in place to tackle sexual harassment and violence, and this new service is another step forward in tackling the issue.”
Vice-President for Welfare and Equal Opportunities at Oxford SU, Ellie Macdonald, said: “Oxford SU is pleased to be working alongside the University to support the work that the new Sexual Violence and Harassment Support Service will be doing.
“This has been one of the first projects that we’ve been working on as sabbatical officers, and it is fantastic to see the University take a clear zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence.
“We also hope that the new support service will enable more students to have confidence in the University when an incident occurs.”
A promotional campaign has been launched for the service, aimed at new and continuing students.
The campaign includes a video featuring staff and students from across the University, including Professor Williams, Oxford college heads, professionals from the Support Service, and Student Union representatives.
Principal of St. Hugh’s College, Dame Elish Angiolini, who appears in the video, said: “Colleges are committed to tackling sexual harassment and violence and we are clear that zero tolerance applies to everyone.
“If a student experiences sexual harassment or violence, we know that getting the right support and independent advice early is crucial.
The new Support Service is joint initiative between the Colleges and the University and an important improvement in the way that we respond to allegations of sexual harassment.”