The Oxford SU campaign It Happens Here has launched a peer support network for survivors of sexual violence. The Safe Spaces project will run throughout the year, with its events for Trinity Term 2022 already underway.
The initiative will facilitate informal wellbeing activities, which aim to promote solidarity between survivors while helping to normalise more formal types of support. Events are taking place on a small group level, and hope to build community among survivors by enabling them to connect.
“It is important to note that the initiative is not intended to replace or offer professional therapy services,” Mneera Saud, Welfare Officer of It Happens Here told The Oxford Blue, “but to show that peer support can make the healing process overall less overwhelming and more accessible”.
It Happens Here explained that the project is motivated by three major concerns. First, that sexual violence is at epidemic levels in universities, with one in four female-identifying undergraduates reporting an experience of sexual violence at Oxford. Second, that survivors may want an alternative to seeking out formalised, professional support. And third, even when survivors do reach out, it is hard for them to use professional support services as they are both oversubscribed and limited in Oxford.
Running in parallel to work against the use of NDAs and suspected cover-ups of sexual violence, the Safe Spaces initiative forms a “peer-led community healing project that will give survivors the opportunity to find community at their own pace and in whichever way they seek.”
The support network will be run by survivors and allies who have received training from the Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre (OSARCC) and the University’s Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service.
Further information about the Safe Spaces Project is available on the network’s website.
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