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Oxford to open new sexual harassment centre

Students will now be able to gain support at a college, department and University level

Oxford University will open a new centre to support those who have been the victims of sexual harassment.

The policy will see help centralised, alongside more college and department based support.

Further details about the centre will be shared with the student body nearer the opening time.

A spokesperson for the University said: “We are focussing on further improving the extensive support we offer to survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

“Student representatives have been actively involved in the group developing the proposals.

“We have put students themselves at the heart of the process, allowing them to make first disclosures at a level where they are most comfortable, whether within their college, to trained student supporters or to central University staff.”

Currently, the University has more than 380 voluntary harassment advisors who are trained to help students “in understanding their options, including how to make a formal complaint, and guiding them to the range of support services Oxford offers.”

The centre will work alongside the University Counselling Service to help ease the psychological impacts of harassment.

Oxford SU’s VP for women, Katy Haigh, told Cherwell: “We welcome the University’s decision to provide a central advice centre for those reporting harassment or assault.

“A paper advocating for this centre has been circulating various University committees over the last few months; this paper was greatly informed by a working group which included many of our own student members such as ‘It Happens Here’ campaigners and the VP Women 2016-17.

“I am happy to see that the University is now ready to begin work bringing this centre to fruition and has expressed its commitment to improving the incident reporting process, and the SU looks forward to working with them to do this.”

“The work to make Oxford University a safe place for its students is far from complete, but the development of this centre is a big step in the right direction.

“We are actively engaged in tackling sexual harassment and violence in all its forms: as well as our consent workshops and first respondent training, we have a dedicated student-led campaign, ‘It Happens Here’, who advocate for survivors of sexual violence in the University, and educate students and Oxford’s local communities about consent, and we consistently lobby the university to improve its resources on tackling sexual violence on campus.”

The University intends to make the reporting and disciplinary side the focus of further work later in the year.

Cambridge University has recently made changes to this aspect of their sexual harassment policy.

Last year, Cambridge brought in a new anonymous reporting system that allows students to record instances of sexual harassment without going to the policy, or revealing the identity of themselves or their harasser.

The aim of the policy is to allow Cambridge to analyse the number of sexual harassment cases, which otherwise would go unnoticed if they had not been reported to the police.

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