Chloe Sparks is running for Welfare Officer, here are her views on why we need to place a bigger focus on domestic abuse on students.
Many people assume that domestic abuse does not affect students, but this is far from the truth. It affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in the UK. Domestic abuse is a serious issue, being the biggest repeat crime in the country. It is a crime that kills, with on average, 2 women being murdered a week. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, no matter their age, sexuality or religion. Its impact is wide and devastating, so I strongly disagree that it is not really a student issue.
One way that students are affected is by needing to support family members who have experienced it. Domestic abuse is extremely traumatising, especially to the primary survivor, but also to close family and friends. The term used for family and friends who are directly impacted is ‘secondary survivors’. While the term secondary is rather clinical and demeaning, at least it is accepted that they too are survivors. Many secondary survivors struggle through mental health issues due to the trauma, such as Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is a lot less support offered for secondary survivors, despite many of them being young people. Much needs to be done to increase awareness of the struggles of secondary survivors and to ensure they are being supported.
The biggest myth is that students do not experience domestic abuse themselves. This increases feelings of isolation and fears that they will not be believed if they bravely speak out. Domestic abuse is the least reported crime, and the belief that students cannot be affected makes this issue worse. British universities do not respond fast enough to student reports of domestic abuse, putting their students’ lives in danger. I believe no university can safely say they are doing enough to help survivors.
There is little awareness of how domestic abuse impacts students. This has to change. Student union’s need to prioritise raising awareness of this fatal issue. They need to listen to student survivors on how they can build and improve support networks. They must create fully intersectional and accessible safe spaces. It is not acceptable to have support that is not easily accessible for students with disabilities and learning difficulties. Student union’s must also work hard with LGBTQ+ and BME groups to ensure that they have their own safe spaces at university and do not feel that their welfare is marginalised.
Chloe Sparks, running for Welfare Officer.
(Image courtesy of The Canadian Jewish News)