University launches initiative to prevent and protect against sexual assault

The University of Roehampton's Wellbeing team has established an initiative to safeguard its students against sexual assault after securing £50,000 through Higher Education Funding Council for England's (HEFCE) Catalyst Fund.

Posted: 29 March 2017

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Roehampton's 'Prevention and Protection' programme will help to preclude incidents of sexual assault, harassment and rape, as well as offer support for those who have experienced it in their lifetime.

Prevention and Protection has three key approaches: A consent workshop will be developed to clearly clarify and explain consent, which will be made mandatory, initially for first year students as part of their university induction and students in a leadership position such as flat reps and sport's captains. Longer-term it will be implemented as an integral part of inductions for all students and staff across campus.

The second project will employ and give extensive training to 10 postgraduate students who will be paid to act as a bystander intervention team at student events both on and off campus in order to prevent sexual assault incidents. 

The third key element will involve partnership with the University's Department of Psychology to provide support groups for victims of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse. These groups will provide unique opportunities of post-assault care which will be facilitated by psychologists.

The comprehensive initiative is the brainchild of Dr Aleata Alstad-Calkins, a specialist in post-assault care and the University's Head of Wellbeing, and will be developed and rolled out over the course of the next six months.

Dr Alstad-Calkins explains, "Sexual assault is a nationwide problem – both in Higher Education and society – that we as a university want to tackle proactively. We've created this three step approach to cover the whole scope of sexual assault and harassment; from the informative prevention strategy through to the necessary support for those who have unfortunately experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.

"It is an issue which institutions and councils across the country are exploring ways to combat, such as the innovative Ask for Angela campaign. Sexual assault should never be considered the norm and it is everyone's responsibility – men and women – to help each other and safeguard from sexual assault, rape or sexual harassment. Working together and implementing a programme like this will hopefully go a long way to prevent issues and protect our students."

The HEFCE Catalyst Fund is an annual commitment which provides monetary support to drive innovation, excellence and efficiency in Higher Education. This year, Roehampton is one of over 60 institutions to receive funding, through HEFCE's programme 'Student Safeguarding on Campus'. The University of Roehampton will monitor and evaluate the success of the 'Prevention and Protection' initiative with a view to advise other universities across the country to support against incidents of sexual support and offering positive student wellbeing.

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