Emmanuel launches new sexual assault policy with week of events

Stevie Hertz 4 May 2015

This week Emmanuel College is holding a series of events in order to raise awareness about sexual consent, and mark the College's introduction of a new sexual harassment policy. Following the efforts of several generations of Women's Officers, Emmanuel has officially established a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual violence. Two new College documents have been drawn up, as well as amendments to the College's Respect and Dignity policy.

Emmanuel's Women's Officer, Roberta Huldisch, explained that in the past students have suffered due to the lack of clear guidelines about dealing with sexual assault, hoping that the new policy will help to increase efficiency in supporting and protecting survivors, as well as increasing accountability.

The new policy includes a statement declaring a Zero Tolerance of sexual harassment, a detailed document on College complaints procedures and sources of support, and an informal advice document compiled by the Emmanuel College Student's Union (ECSU).

This will complement the existing Respect and Dignity Policy which has also been updated. It now states that informal avenues of complaint do not have to be exhausted before making a formal complaint, if the case is serious enough.

To celebrate and publicise this new policy, Emmanuel have held a series of events in a campaign entitled 'Break the Silence: Emmanuel Speaks Out Against Sexual Violence. The first event was a 'Wear What You Want' formal last Thursday, raising money for Cambridge Rape Crisis.

Following this, on Saturday evening there was a speakers' event entitled 'Breaking the Silence Around Sexual Violence'. Speakers included CUSU Women's Officer Amelia Horgan, the co-founders of the My Body Back project, and Olivia Smith, a criminologist specializing in how sexual violence is dealt with by the Criminal Justice system.

Saturday 9 May will see the final event of this campaign, a writing workshop called 'Restoring and Restorying,' at which participants will be encouraged to 'break the silence' around sexual violence by writing poetry or prose in an attempt to 'restory' myths and societal perceptions of trauma, violence and prejudice.

According to the Vice-President of (ECSU), Alina Khakoo, these events are "a celebration of the solidarity and open-mindedness that members of Emma have shown in drafting this policy", putting Emmanuel "at the forefront of Cambridge colleges in this arena." The reaction from Emmanuel students has been positive, with many taking part in the photo campaign, posing with signs reading 'Emmanuel Says NO to Sexual Harassment.' One first-year student commented that they felt "really proud of the College, and especially the students who have worked so hard to achieve this… I only hope that other colleges can ensure that their policies are similarly up to date."

Looking forward, Huldisch is aware that ratifying this policy is only the first step for Emmanuel. “As proud as we are, it is important to keep fighting. I see this policy as something we can build on to create more clarity and accountability. Our next task is to make sure that real-life college procedures live up to the guidelines, and to create a much more supportive environment for survivors of sexual violence.”