In 2014, the importance of raising awareness of Sexual Harassment on and around campus became an important issue for the student community here at Exeter. In the wake of issues of cat-calling, lad culture banter and alike, the then elected Sabbatical team- Rachel Gillies, Kate Hawkins, Matthew Bate, Ben Street and Andy Hingham understood how much of a problem this was becoming for students and the need to address and educate people on what constitutes sexual harassment and the need to call people out on such behaviour. Thus, Exeter’s #NeverOk campaign was born.
The project was successful in raising awareness about what exactly Sexual Harassment meant. Students, some for the very first time, understood how things they thought were ‘a bit of a laugh’ like cat calling, wolf whistling, uninvited touching and inappropriate comments or banter were #NeverOk. The campaign saw great reception on both local and national fronts, with support from the University’s Senior Management and celebrity spotlight through David Tennant. Through numerous videos, debates and articles discussing the issues and signposting support, the message of Educate Yourself, get involved and Call it out were communicated loud and clear.
It has since then become a legacy project for Sabbatical officers over the following years. Laura Jane and Naomi Armstrong carrying #NeverOk forward in 2015 and Toby Gladwin and Alec James continuing with the campaign in 2016 saw an increase in the number of reported sexual offence instances in both years, often as a result of the awareness raised by the campaign’s legacy.
Consent was added to the focus projects of the #NeverOk campaign to ensure that students’ ambiguity with regards to consent could be completely eradicated. The teams made a range of interactive videos (featuring our very own Ram curly fries) to illustrate the points being highlighted and encouraged share stories to make the understanding of consent simple and accessible while making the identity of the campaign relatable to every student here at Exeter.
This year, Guild President, Shades, and VP Welfare and Diversity, Kat Karamani, are resurrecting #NeverOk once again. As well as reflecting upon the legacy of the campaign over the years here at Exeter as well across the world, they will be focusing on the issues that are relevant to and at the front and centre of the current student ideology. Many of you would have taken part the Consent Quiz during registration this year which was our way of driving the message of consent and #NeverOk home. However, student cohorts change and the focus on issues do so in turn. This year, there has been a notable increase in the incidents of drink spiking and revenge media/ revenge porn being published. Humiliating and abusive, we are committed to bringing these topics to the forefront of student awareness, to make people cautious of the dangers they carry and to ensure they are aware the support available to those who fall victim to such abuse. It’s time people understood that these count as Sexual Harassment and that is #NeverOk.