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On Talbot Campus the Flags Blow
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As you walk across the Talbot Campus at Bournemouth University, hundreds of flags blow, like poppies in a field. These aren't for those fallen in war, they are still about fighting though. Written on each flag is a name, feelings, emotions.  Each flag represents sexual and dating violence.  Each one is for a person who has experienced sexual assault in some form. 20180216_080806.jpg This was going to be a rational, controlled piece.  It has turned into more of my overly emotional ramblings.... I should probably work on that. Samuel Thomson, a 3rd year Psychology student, is the one who has introduced the campaign to BU. You see the flags flying, you have no idea if they are by someone who has committed assault, or received it.  But the emotions are the same regardless - disgust, shame, embarrassment, self loathing. Hundreds of people who have spoken up, but how many are silent? How many won't say anything because they were "asking for it"?  Because they are a man and "women can't rape men"? How many won't say anything because they were drinking? A Telegraph survey from 2015 found that one in three students had experienced some form of sexual assault at university. One in Three. I have three children - that means one of them is being attacked.  Two of them have already experienced inappropriate sexual interactions, and they aren't even 15 years old. I don't know if numbers are rising because people are finally being more open, or if numbers are rising because it happens more. Brock Turner is a prime example - what is the deterrent when you can rape an unconscious woman, there be witnesses, and yet you still get minimal sentencing? We need more.  I don't know how.  I have no magical answers. One of the most worrying thing I seem to hear is "But it's ok, I stopped it happening".  Stopping yourself from being hurt is NOT ok.  Look at any school shooting (not that they happen a lot or anything), any of the students or staff who walk away from those unharmed are not ok.  Just because they didn't get hurt, doesn't mean it didn't have an affect.  Just because it was a "close call" doesn't mean that it is not important. Student support - there should be someone you can call, meet on site, email, who is trained in this.  Someone who is physically there.  Not a helpline number who could be anywhere.   Someone on campus who can help you if you need to talk to lecturers about support and mitigating circumstances.  Who can help when you National campaigns for things like mentioning a certain cocktail if you feel unsafe sound promising in theory, but how do you order the secret drink if the person who is making you feel unsafe is stood next to you? We shouldn't still be needing to explain to people what is consent, what is ok, but in a time of #metoo and #timesup it is clear that we still do need to. All I know is that I look at the flags as I walk.  I know how many of my friends are a "flag".  I don't want my children growing up in a world where flags are just accepted. Want to know more? "The Hunting Ground" takes a terrifying look at Campus Assault across the United States - it is a hard watch, but worth it. For more information on the Red Flag Campaign, click here If you would like to complete Sam's survey, please click here  

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