Sarah Everard: Supporting students to speak up

19 Mar 2021
By Jennifer Steadman, Higher Education Communications Executive at Unite Students
For many women, myself included, the circumstances surrounding Sarah Everard’s disappearance and death have evoked difficult yet familiar feelings. It has triggered a national outpouring of grief, anger, and fear - but not surprise.

Countless women have come forward and spoken out about their experiences, feelings and frustrations, and Gioia - an English Literature and Theatre Studies student at the University of Glasgow - is one of them. “I just feel deeply resigned. Resigned that there seems to be nothing women can do to make ourselves safer,” she says. “But then, maybe there is nothing that we can do to make ourselves safer - because it shouldn’t be up to us in the first place.”

She continues: “We all know the ‘right’ things women are told to do to avoid putting themselves in danger: dress appropriately, walk public routes, call someone on your way home… but we still face issues on a regular basis. I don’t know a single woman who has not been sexually harassed or assaulted in some way.”

One of Unite Students’ key commitments is ‘keeping uS safe’, and student safety is a vital priority for us as a business. Our safety teams provide security to keep our residences and students safe, and we are encouraging students to speak to our teams in confidence if they are concerned about their safety or are experiencing distress or trauma related to the case. 

If any students raises concerns around sexual harassment, violence, stalking or harassment, every member of our city team is trained to refer these to our Student Services & Wellbeing team, who can follow up where necessary; you can read more about our support services here.

Our welfare teams provide signposting to support services including our university partners’ welfare services, and - where appropriate - victim support services. We have additionally shared a list of services on The Common Room, our student-facing website, to direct students in confidence to services if they don’t feel comfortable bringing these up with us or their university.

Amid her resignation, Gioia feels some optimism that the tide may be turning: “For the first time, seeing everyone’s response on social media and in the streets gives me a slight bit of hope that maybe things can change if we keep on speaking up.”

If you’ve been affected by recent events or stories you’ve read online, please recognise that you are not alone. For information on the resources and support that is available to you, please click here.

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Jen Steadman (she/her) is a Higher Education Communications Executive at Unite Students. Prior to this, she was the inaugural Editor of GSL News, covering the student experience for the higher education sector.