De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU) and De Montfort University (DMU) have come together to stamp out sexual violence and harassment.
The partnership, named The Mandala Project, shows that sexual violence, harassment, misogynistic ‘banter’ and abusive relationships have no place at DMU or any campus and will support individuals who have been affected by these issues.
The project was launched at an event in Hugh Aston last week, with speeches from senior members of university staff as well as the performance of a powerful new drama highlighting ‘lad culture’ and peer pressure.
DMU's Chief Operating Officer, Ben Browne, spoke about the university's commitment to stamping out sexual violence and harassment.
Keira Rounsley, VP Welfare and Community at DSU, said: “This is all about the commitment of the university and DSU to tackling sexual violence on campus.
“That’s everything from having additional support services in place to preventative work around ‘lad culture’ following on from guidance released by Universities UK in October.
“To begin with, students didn’t have a place to go. So we have been working closely with the university on getting a structural support service in place as we had no single point to deal with situations from harassment to forced marriage to rape.
“We now have a first responders team who know exactly what to do if a student discloses something to them and will talk to the student about what they want and where to signpost for help.”
A team of trained professionals will listen to and empower students to receive the very best support and help. Through The Mandala Project we can now help students to access medical support, counselling and work with specialist agencies who will be there to give clear information and advice.
“Students aren’t the problem; but the solution,” Keira continued.
“Now we have the support systems in place, the preventative work really begins. This has always been a taboo subject and I know that some students’ unions have trouble in convincing their university that this is a real problem so I’m so grateful to work with a university that listens and is working with us to address this.
“The statistics show one in four women and one in ten men are sexually assaulted. We want to make an environment that is safe for students and will empower others not to be bystanders.
“We will listen. We can help.”
Stacey Brown was one of three Drama Studies students to perform at the launch of The Mandala Project.
Elsewhere at the launch, three Drama Studies students examined issues of sexual harassment, peer pressure and misogyny through three parallel fictional storylines.
Callum Harris played two roles; a little boy whose parents’ relationship is in trouble, and a gay student who falls foul of a bigot on social media. He said: “It’s something I’m proud to have worked on. Having different voices and seeing the different stories shows there are all kinds of issues people are dealing with.”
Stacey Brown, who also performed, explained: “We want people to see the drama and to feel able to challenge things that they see, and know they can speak up.
“I was nervous performing it but I’m really pleased with the response. If seeing this encourages one person to come forward then it's worth it.”
The launch comes at the same time as the announcement of a funding boost for peer support on nights out.
Keira continued: “We have also just secured £1,500 of funding for Club Crew, which is a scheme where paid students go on nights out to make sure students are okay.
“They make sure students go home in registered taxis, aren’t walking home by themselves and stopping harassment where they may see it occur. Research has shown that a lot of harassment occurs surrounding alcohol and that is where blurred lines can come from.”
More details of the scheme, and how students can get involved, will be released in due course.
To find out more about The Mandala Project, head to the university’s academic support pages here.
Charlotte Batey, a member of DSU's Women's Football club, also performed at the launch in DMU's Hugh Aston building.