Break The Silence Campaign
The stress of Covid-19 has caused the daily lives of everyone to change dramatically and everywhere you look it is all you see; it is only natural to look for happier things to occupy your mind. But, sometimes, the most uplifting stories are those born from the most deplorable of circumstances. By this I am referring to the united front of Roehampton’s Bystander Intervention Team’s ‘Break The Silence’ campaign [official name undisclosed], raising awareness on sexual violence.
The upcoming campaign will be running from Monday 27th April until Thursday 30th April via the Bystander Intervention Team’s social media accounts. It will utilise the already popular #BreakTheSilence hashtag in relation to sexual assault.
In particular, the campaign will engage the combined efforts of Roehampton’s societies. Through having each society discuss themes surrounding consent in a way that correlates to their own society, the campaign promotes a variety of student perspectives, connects to students across campus (or rather across the country) and will express an unwavering support to those affected.
This follows on from the success of the Bystander Intervention Team’s recent ‘Consent is…’ campaign, which consisted of a series of social media posts where students and staff across the university shared their views on consent through poignant one-liners and hard-hitting hashtags.
I spoke with Vilde Standal Bøyum, The Bystander Intervention Team Coordinator, about the team, the ‘Break The Silence’ campaign and the stark importance of their objective- to raise awareness and end stigma surrounding sexual violence. “Our focus is to spread more awareness of consent through campaigns and our presence, and to try to make people comfortable talking about consent with friends, family and partners.”
Having joined the team at its conception in 2017, Bøyum has had an active role tackling the issues of sexual violence and assault at Roehampton, often organizing events and offering pastoral support. Since its creation Bøyum is pleased to say the team has seen an increase in disclosures. She credits this increase to the teams’ hard-work reaching out to students through such campaigns. “The students are getting more familiar with the team and know we are there to help them.”
However, the campaign as we will soon see it unfolding was not the original concept. Due to the Corona Virus outbreak and subsequent lockdown the campaign moved from campus to social media. Bøyum describes the original event as a day filled with “as much student participation as possible”, hosting a trail of live art installations by societies across campus all leading to a relaxed atmosphere at Monte Hall, complete with live music, an open mic and stands for support organisations.
Nonetheless, Bøyum is optimistic for the new, smaller campaign, commenting on social media’s ability to reach more viewers and its longer lasting impact due to running over several days. Commenting on the ease-of-access and interactivity social media provides, Bøyum adds, “I have found out that I love the InstaStory polls, and I see quite a lot of interaction on that.”
She continues that the ‘Break The Silence’ campaign aims to start an open conversation “about themes that are still left unmentioned in correlation to sexual violence, and signpost to support services that have knowledge of these themes.” One of these services is Rape Crisis England and Wales, a charity supporting women, offering counselling, advocacy and support to anyone affected by sexual violence.
According to Rape Crisis, as of January 2019, rape and sexual assault cases reported to police increased 14%. Between 2018-19 Rape Crisis also recorded that 34% of those enlisting their services were 25 and under.
Another charity is SurvivorsUK who work towards supporting men affected by sexual violence. According to the Survivors UK website, around 12,000 men are sexually assaulted in the UK, a point the Bystander Intervention Team also aims to improve awareness of through their campaigns.
However, these statistics indicate a double-edged sword, when asked her opinions on future results of tackling sexual violence, Bøyum concludes, “I believe everyone unfortunately has a very long way to go until anything is good enough. But, in my opinion, we are moving in the right direction.”
If you have been affected by sexual violence or know someone who has do not hesitate to contact the following services:
Rape Crisis England and Wales National Telephone Helpline: 0808 802 9999
Victim Support Confidential Support-line: 0808 1689 111
Survivors UK Online Helpline: https://www.survivorsuk.org/ways-we-can-help/online-helpline/