Dear Frances Corner, Warden of Goldsmiths and the Goldsmiths Community,
As current and former Goldsmiths Students’ Union staff who have worked directly on the Against Sexual Violence (ASV) project, we are heartbroken, infuriated, and devastated to hear that Senior Management have stopped funding this crucial sexual violence prevention initiative that we have personally worked so hard on.
The ASV project was born out of a long history of fighting sexual violence at Goldsmiths. It’s now six years since ‘Strategic Misogyny’ began blogging about the presence of sexual violence on university campuses; five years since Goldsmiths students (later the 1972 Group) organised the ‘Sexual Harassment in Higher Education Conference’; four years since renowned scholar, Professor Sara Ahmed, resigned from Goldsmiths in protest over the institution's failure to address sexual harassment; and three years since Goldsmiths won a share of £2.45 million in HEFCE funding to help safeguard students.
The College is incredibly lucky to have a body of student and staff who are passionate organisers and talented agents of change who have laid the foundations not only for the advocacy for survivors of sexual violence, but also for prevention work through policy and education.
The ASV project as we know it was planted by and grew out of the Students’ Union two years ago. In the first year, we received, developed, and piloted an Active Bystander Training programme; established sexual violence prevention training for all SU bar and venue staff; advised on the Sexual Health Advisory Board; and secured a promise from the College for an expansion of the programme and guaranteed funding for at least two additional years. In the past year, we’ve rolled out Active Bystander Training across campus, training hundreds more students and staff. When Covid-19 hit, we stopped all in-person training as that was the most compassionate and inclusive response for everyone and we used the time generatively to review the success and challenges of the programme and offer recommendations going forward. This work stopped when the entire ASV team were furloughed for the summer. Now, in just this term, we launched our Digital Consent and It’s Only a Bloody Period campaigns; organised a programme of community and wellness events for 16 Days; and have started survivor space coffee mornings and an Ally Club.
But the ASV project is just the beginning and there is still work to be done. Let us be clear:
Sexual violence happens - it’s only recently that the names of Brock Turner, Harvey Weinstein, and Donald Trump first hit the headlines and #MeToo went viral across social media.
Sexual violence happens in our communities - many of us are survivors ourselves and everyone has survivors in their lives, whether they know it or not.
Sexual violence continues to happen during the pandemic - it’s on each and every one of us to show victims and survivors that they are not alone and that’s important now more than ever.
Silence breeds violence but the impact of the ASV project isn’t loud, it’s quiet. It’s when we decide to walk a classmate home from the gym, or to shimmie our way in between a friend and a stranger on the dancefloor, or when we remind a friend not to show us nudes that were only meant for their eyes.
The loss of the ASV project would be to lose a safe and non-judgemental space that fosters open and honest conversations, challenges pervasive and damaging myths around sexual violence, and empowers community members to act when they witness social injuctice; it would be to lose a grassroots, collaborative, cross-college project which centers the needs of primary and secondary survivors; and it would be to lose the only initiative at the College that calls for a community-reponsibility approach to eradicate sexual violence from our community.
As ASV staff members, we are so lucky to be a small part of the change that needed and still needs to happen—not only at Goldsmiths but in Higher Education as a whole. As well as a training in trauma-informed and survivor-centred facilitation and an ever growing and changing community of amazing co-facilitators, working on the project offers a deeply experiential and immersive education in social justice, offering lessons that we’ve applied in our own lives to be better friends, colleagues, and citizens.
That’s what we hope for everyone at Goldsmiths. The ASV project calls on each of us to build a community of care in spite of a culture of complicity. And that’s what we’re calling on you to do now: to recognise the harm and injustice, to use your own agency, and to intervene.
The decision to stop funding the ASV project is shortsighted, irresponsible, and unethical and we’re urging you to make a sustained, impactful, and substantive investment for the protection and wellbeing of your students and staff.
Help us create a Goldsmiths that stands Against Sexual Violence, together.
Current and former ASV staff, including
& numerous others who couldn’t contribute at this time
P.S. Have all members of the Senior Management Team participated in our Active Bystander Training workshops? If not, we’d be more than happy to offer ad hoc sessions whenever suits you.