Today the University and Colleges of Cambridge and CUSU are launching a zero tolerance campaign around sexual misconduct

Called ‘Breaking the Silence – Cambridge speaks out against sexual misconduct’, the campaign will highlight a range of new prevention, support and reporting measures coming into effect in 2017.

It launches today (24 October) with a new website and film showing CUSU’s women’s officer Lola Olufemi and senior leaders including Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope advocating zero tolerance of all forms of harassment.

The website gives contact points for help, advice and support as well as setting out expectations around mutual respect and consideration and the zero tolerance approach to sexual misconduct. Staff and students are also given information about the University, College and external reporting options via the website. 

The campaign has been developed by CUSU, the University and Colleges and will be supported on social media using the hashtag #breakingthesilence.

The series of new initiatives to support those who have experienced harassment or sexual misconduct and to raise awareness of consent being brought into effect this term, includes a new online Consent Matterscourse available through Moodle, an expansion of the Good Lad workshops in sports clubs to promote respect and tolerance, College staff training on handling student disclosures of sexual assault, the appointment of a University Sexual Harassment & Assault Advisor at the University Counselling Service and ‘Where do you draw the line?’ and additional Dignity at Work: Preventing and Managing Bullying and Harassment Complaints training for University staff.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope says: “Cambridge prides itself on being a leader, academically in terms of research, educationally.

“It has to be a social leader as well, tackling tough problems such as sexual harassment.

“If we don’t tackle sexual misconduct, we risk losing some of our most talented members; people who won’t feel safe, who won’t feel valued in our community.

“This is a responsibility for each and every one of us – every university leader, staff member or student.

“Together we can make Cambridge a safe, inclusive environment.”

Lola Olufemi, Cambridge University Students’ Union women’s officer, says: “Sexual misconduct is often viewed as something that’s ‘difficult to tackle’ but difficult problems are not unsolvable problems.

“A lot of people think that because sexual misconduct happens on such a large scale individual actions make no difference.

“But one of the best ways to challenge anything is to start small and to challenge in the spaces you’re in.

"That is how you begin to change a culture. That is the message I want students to take away from the campaign."

Cambridge’s expansion of prevention, support and reporting of sexual misconduct follows a successful bid for funding to HEFCE in March that secured an additional £87,000 investment in initiatives. It builds on a series of policies and procedures aimed at advocating zero tolerance to sexual misconduct developed previously.

A policy and guidance on consensual staff-student relationships was published last week. 

Next month the first Intervention Initiative series of workshops will be launches at Pembroke College, with Jesus, Selwyn, Girton, Queens', Wolfson and Sidney Sussex swiftly following.

Jan Brighting, facilitator of the Intervention Initiative at Pembroke College, said: “Through the Intervention Initiative, we will try to give students the confidence, in a safe environment, to practice bystander intervention skills so they can challenge or avert a situation.

“Being a bystander is not about walking up the street and seeing a situation and tackling it, it’s about making an intervention, a small distraction, within a student’s friendship group - it’s not about putting people at risk at all.

“It’s about changing and challenging some of the social norms around behaviours, and giving students the skills and confidence to do that.”

Developed by the University of the West of England, the training follows on from similar university-focused programmes delivered in North America, of which research has shown a campus with a bystander intervention programme had 21% fewer cases of intimate partner violence, victimisation and perpetration compared with campuses that didn’t offer any training. 

The initiative builds on on previous work to enhance the support and reporting around sexual misconduct which includes the formation of the Office for Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals, the introduction of an anonymous reporting online tool for staff and students, the development of a procedure for handling cases of student misconduct and sexual harassment, the development of ‘When To Refer’ guidance for staff and the roll out of training to deal with sexual harassment and misconduct for all University Counselling Service counsellors and mental health advisers.

Visit the new website at

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