Students launch anonymous platform for testimonies of sexual abuse survivors
A group of anonymous students is creating a safe space allowing sexual abuse survivors to share their testimonies on social media
By: Jeevan Bains
Caption: screengrab of @abdnsurvivors Instagram page
Content warning: rape, sexual harassment
A student at the University of Aberdeen is using Instagram to bring to light testimonies of sexual abuse survivors at UoA, using their own assault experience to create a space that “allows survivors to have some peace, giving a platform where they matter and are taken seriously - whenever they are ready to”.
They describe the page as being created “by survivors for survivors” hoping to “raise awareness of sexual violence and to empower victims and survivors irrespective of gender, race or sexuality.” Recently growing to a small team of admins, the page described its aim as wanting to fill the gap at the university and “to help build a community that supports survivors better”.
Submissions are sent through an anonymous online form and posted to the main Instagram page which also provides support resources and contact information to organizations such as the Samaritans. Some testimonies on the page include firsthand accounts of students’ experiences of rape and assault with the use of physical injury, drugs, and alcohol.
Similar pages have been created by students at universities such as Edinburgh and Oxford which come at a time where St. Andrews University has made national headlines after dozens of allegations of sexual assault are being investigated by Police Scotland.
Set up in early July, @abdnsurvivors has already amassed the support of over 350 followers including students and over 20 societies at Aberdeen University including the Aberdeen Indian Society and Aberdeen Christian Union. The page admins told the Gaudie that they “would love to support and be supported by as many societies as possible” so that “everyone who might want to use this space, knows it exists”.
The Gaudie spoke to the Aberdeen University Rugby Football Club (AURFC) who said they “wholeheartedly support the incredible work that @abdnsurvivors are doing to break the stigma around speaking out and believing victims”.
They said they understood the importance of educating “especially young men about the gravity of sexual assault” and that they condemn any behaviour that is “viewed as ‘just a joke’, which has no place in today’s society”. Xander Mackay, President of AURFC, added that they are “looking forward to engaging with @abdnsurvivors” and are “committed to encouraging and maintaining a club environment that condemns any form of sexual assault”.
The University responded to student criticism of the effectiveness of its Safe Zone App which “alerts security team members to your situation and location, so they can respond quickly on campus” after comments students had not been aware of the app - demonstrating a clear discrepancy between the perceived effectiveness of the universities work and the tangible efforts felt by students on campus.
A University spokesperson said that “information about the Safe Zone app, will be delivered through a 0-credit course in MyAberdeen. This will provide a way to ensure that all students have been introduced to the relevant information” regarding safety and wellbeing.
Admins of @abdnsurvivors shared their concerns and invited the University to reignite focus on a range of active and visible preventative measures on campus rather than over-relying on the Safe Zone app, encouraging the university to work overtly with the Aberdeen Consent Awareness and Sexual Education Group to spread the implementation of preventative measures across campus.
The team urged students to “be aware that as you may know someone who has experienced sexual assault, you may also know someone who has perpetrated it’”.
If you are affected by any of the themes in this article or are looking for more information and support visit https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/ or https://www.abdn.ac.uk/students/support/support-2874.php
No response was received at the time of publishing from the Aberdeen University Men’s Football Club.