Sexual assault and harassment is rife at UK universities, with nearly one in five students experiencing it in their first week of term. Despite greater public awareness of the issue in recent years and victims being increasingly brave enough to share their stories, more needs to be done to stamp out the problem.
Now, Cambridge University is to become the first in the country to hire a full-time member of staff to support and advise students on sexual assault and harassment, the BBC reported. The chosen candidate will work within the university's counselling service and will work individually with students as well as designing and running workshops for staff.
The adviser, who will earn up to £38k, will work with the police, the local sexual assault referral centre and Cambridge Rape Crisis to "bolster the advice and support available to a student", according to the advert.
A university spokesperson told the BBC: "The university is continuously and actively working to improve the prevention, response, support and investigation of all instances of harassment, hate crime and sexual misconduct."
They continued: "This new post has been created to supplement and bolster advice and support available to students through the college tutorial system, and in particular offer a source of specialist support to students."
In June it was reported that students at Jesus College, Cambridge, had been heard shouting misogynistic and rape-inciting chants, which may have shocked some but will have been like water off a duck's back to anyone who has attended university in recent years. Many universities now hold compulsory sexual consent classes to educate students when they join their institutions.
The news of the appointment has been largely well received on Twitter, although many acknowledged that it shouldn't be necessary in the first place. The general view of Cambridge students, whose academic term doesn't start for another few weeks, is as yet unclear.
UK universities have also been widely accused of providing woefully substandard support to victims over the years by neglecting to log students' allegations of rape, sexual assault and harassment, and of not taking student victims seriously, a separate Guardian investigation from last year found.
Judging by how prevalent – and generally accepted as just a fact of life – sexual assault, harassment and issues around consent were when we were students, it's encouraging that Cambridge has taken the public step of acknowledging and addressing it. Let's just hope other institutions follow their lead.