“Being a university lecturer isn’t generally very difficult but one of the most challenging aspects by far is pastoral care for students with difficulties, especially harrowing in the case of students who disclose to us that they’ve been victims of sexual violence – which, people outside universities are always surprised to hear, happens shockingly often.

So I was particularly looking forward to today’s full day of training on Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence, delivered by the wonderful Annis Stead, rolled out to the university [of York] and beyond, to as many people as possible I hope. Huge congratulations and thanks to Vanita Sundaram and her research team who put it together. They’ve trained university staff and student representatives, who’ve in turn been training students. Everyone in a university context should be trained. Especially those who think it’s not in their job description.

It was professional development in the noblest sense of the word, not just crucial and directly relevant to our careers, but also the kind that makes you a better person in general.

Particularly eye-opening was an activity in which we listed reasons why someone may not wish to disclose assault to a supervisor. There were quite literally too many reasons to list on a full whiteboard – and we kept finding more- and there’s probably dozens we didn’t think of. It really makes you think of how tremendously hard it must be for those students who come to you to tell you they’ve been assaulted, raped, harassed, and how much of a responsibility you have to them when they open up to you, given the sheer universe of reasons why they might never have done so.

I also loved the fact that the training involved a large part of theorisation, reflection about root causes, contextualisation, discussion. We need the pragmatic advice, active listening practice and clear list of actions to take (and we got them), but responding to disclosure is so much more than setting a chain of actions into motion. Having a whole morning of preliminary thinking really worked. You think you know the central concepts, the main contexts, the myths and the prejudices, but actually you don’t. Or not enough.

(So here’s my feedback, much longer than what I could put on the form…)”

Thank you note posted on 24th of Jannuary 2017 on social media by Clémentine Beauvais, participant at USVreact training organized at University of York.

Featured image: Annis Stead from University of York holding the USVreact training.