The University of Sydney Survivors’ Network will host its first meeting this Wednesday, providing a peer-run, safe space for survivors of sexual assault to receive support.
The network’s creation was spearheaded by Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) Women’s officer Mariam Mohammed.
The group will be run with the assistance of 2016 and 2017 Students’ Representative Council (SRC) Wom*n’s officers Anna Hush, Katie Thorburn and Imogen Grant, and is likely the first of its kind in Sydney.
“There is nothing like this out there,” said Thorburn.
“The non-existent, or at best inappropriate, support systems that are out there often come from the top down. It’s some guy in parliament saying this is what’s good for people, when really survivors know what is best for themselves.”
The group will operate as an autonomous space for female-identifying survivors, with the bulk of its activities to be collectively decided by the group.
“The people in the network will be the ones to shape what needs to happen based on their needs, rather than [others] dictating what needs to happen which is often what happens with assault,” said Mohammed.
The primary purpose of the network will be one of support, however, Thorburn said that the opportunity for activism exists, should the wishes of the group reflect this.
“When people come together, they realise it’s not just them. From this collectivising of experience it could happen that people go ‘you know what, the University system did not support any of us,'” she said.
The idea for the network stemmed from a similar initiative that Mohammed had observed in Pakistan.
“In Australia, I have found that women of colour are still left behind the same way they are back home. They are still facing the same issues that they would in Pakistan, which is a third world country,” she said.
“For them it’s still about raising awareness and talking about sexual assault. For women of colour specifically, a community group like this is often more successful in nudging them in the right direction.”
The launch comes in the wake of a recent Honi exclusive which revealed a letter from the University justifying their decision to attempt to to block the publication of details surrounding an attempted sexual assault on its grounds.
To ensure the safety of members, the meetings are currently not advertised, but will be open to survivors through contact with the Wom*n’s Officers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault, support is available at 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.