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Breaking the Silence campaign launches

Today the University and Colleges of Cambridge and CUSU are launching a zero tolerance campaign around sexual misconduct.

Called ‘Breaking the Silence – Cambridge speaks out against sexual misconduct’, the campaign will highlight a range of new prevention, support and reporting measures coming into effect in 2017.

It launches today (24 October) with a new website and film showing CUSU’s women’s officer Lola Olufemi and senior leaders including Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope advocating zero tolerance of all forms of harassment.

The website gives contact points for help, advice and support as well as setting out expectations around mutual respect and consideration and the zero tolerance approach to sexual misconduct. Staff and students are also given information about the University, College and external reporting options via the website. 

The campaign has been developed by CUSU, the University and Colleges and will be supported on social media using the hashtag #breakingthesilence.

Dr Geoff Parks, Senior Tutor at Jesus College, said: ""The launch of the Breaking the Silence campaign represents an important advance in efforts to put an end to sexual harassment in Cambridge. Jesus College is fully supportive of and fully engaged with these efforts."

The College is also taking part in running Intervention Initiative workshops, due to launch across seven Cambridge Colleges this term. Tori McKee, Jesus College Tutorial Manager, said: “It is absolutely clear that a key element of tackling sexual harassment and misconduct at the University involves changing the culture and challenging the social norms that perpetuate such behaviour.  I am very excited to be part of a team of facilitators for the Intervention Initiative bystander training being piloted at seven Cambridge Colleges including Jesus.  We very much hope that many students will elect to attend this important training, which will equip them with the confidence and the tools to challenge behaviours and intervene if it is safe to do so.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope says: “Cambridge prides itself on being a leader, academically in terms of research, educationally. It has to be a social leader as well, tackling tough problems such as sexual harassment. If we don’t tackle sexual misconduct, we risk losing some of our most talented members; people who won’t feel safe, who won’t feel valued in our community. This is a responsibility for each and every one of us – every university leader, staff member or student. Together we can make Cambridge a safe, inclusive environment.”

Lola Olufemi, Cambridge University Students’ Union women’s officer, says: “Sexual misconduct is often viewed as something that’s ‘difficult to tackle’ but difficult problems are not unsolvable problems. A lot of people think that because sexual misconduct happens on such a large scale individual actions make no difference. But one of the best ways to challenge anything is to start small and to challenge in the spaces you’re in. That is how you begin to change a culture. That is the message I want students to take away from the campaign."

The series of new initiatives to support those who have experienced harassment or sexual misconduct and to raise awareness of consent being brought into effect this term, includes a new online Consent Matters course , an expansion of the Good Lad workshops in sports clubs to promote respect and tolerance, College staff training on handling student disclosures of sexual assault, the appointment of a University Sexual Harassment and Assault Advisor at the University Counselling Service and ‘Where do you draw the line?’ and additional Dignity at Work: Preventing and Managing Bullying and Harassment Complaints training for University staff.

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