OXFORD University has today opened a new sexual harassment and violence support service, offering professional and confidential support and advice for all their students.

The service launch forms part of the Oxford Against Sexual Violence campaign, run jointly by the University and Oxford University Student Union to send a clear message that sexual violence or harassment of any form is unacceptable.

The campaign builds on existing activities, including consent and bystander intervention workshops for new students, and a range of welfare and support services provided in colleges and by the central University.

It follows the Me Too movement reaching global prominence, in the wake of the scandal surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Professor Martin Williams, Oxford University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, said: “At Oxford, we are committed to preventing and responding to all incidents of sexual harassment and violence. It is never acceptable, and we take a zero tolerance approach. We already have a range of measures in place to tackle sexual harassment and violence, and this new service is another step forward in tackling the issue.”

Ellie Macdonald, Vice-President for Welfare and Equal Opportunities at Oxford Student Union, added: “Oxford SU is pleased to be working alongside the University to support the work that the new sexual violence and harassment support service will be doing. This has been one of the first projects that we’ve been working on as sabbatical officers, and it is fantastic to see the University take a clear zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence. We also hope that the new support service will enable more students to have confidence in the University when an incident occurs”. 

Free confidential support and advice will be offered to any student who has been affected by sexual harassment or violence. A team of trained specialist advisors will offer students independent advice and guidance and help them to explore their options, which may include formal reporting. 

The new service will also give staff training and advice on responding to sexual harassment and violence. It is a joint project between the Colleges and the University, and will be delivered in association with Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre.

Gillian Hamnett, director of student welfare and support services, which will manage the new service, said: “We have worked with expert partners, staff and students to ensure the service meets the needs of those who have experienced sexual harassment and violence. Our specially-trained staff will provide vital support to any student who needs it – regardless of who they are, or what has happened.”

A promotional campaign is underway for the new service, aimed at both new and continuing students. It is being launched under the banner ‘Oxford Against Sexual Violence’.

The service and campaign follow recommendations from the University’s working group report into sexual harassment and violence at the University, chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC. 

The University says it is also reviewing its policies and procedures around the reporting of sexual incidents.