Bringing Sexual Violence On Campus to a STOP With Camille Schloeffel

Graphic by Juliette Baxter

With the release of reports such as End Rape on Campus (EROC) Australia’s The Red Zone Report or Connecting The Dots: Understanding Sexual Assault in University Communities, the alarming trends evidencing the proliferation of sexual assault issues across Australian universities have finally come to the light. EROC reports that ‘68 college students are raped per week in Australia’, a damning statistic demonstrating the continuation of historical trends previously shrouded and kept from public knowledge and discussion. ANU’s very own Camille Schloeffel is done keeping the lid on this conversation. Her initiative, The STOP Campaign, is designed to raise awareness about and tackle sexual assault and harassment on campus through events, information and initiative’s such as their latest project, a zine directed to revealing truths and breakdown stigmas.

Francesca and Niamh sat down with Camille, a third year Senior Resident at Fenner Hall, for a chat about the purpose and significance of the initiative, its challenges and successes.

Ok, so first up give us the rundown of how you started the Stop Campaign.

I started the Stop Campaign earlier this year after some heads of halls and student leaders met up to talk about promoting consent in colleges, and they didn’t come up with anything that would effect cultural change. So I decided that, as a student, I would start something that would effect cultural change in regards to stopping sexual violence at university.

Who’s the Stop Campaign specifically aimed at?

I went into the campaign thinking that it would be student-led, so it is directed at students, but all students. I’ve tried really hard to keep it non-gendered, so basically I’m just trying to target everyone, but more specifically those in residential halls because at ANU that’s where a lot of the sexual violence is happening.

Being a student led campaign; there must be a lot of challenges.

 Well, initially starting the campaign just at Fenner Hall in term two, I started to experience small, quite passive backlash. I would put up posters about what’s on, information or sex positivity. I noticed that people would rip out ‘positivity’ leaving just ‘sex’, or people would deface them with drawings of penises, which was totally inappropriate to what we are talking about. It was particularly targeted, in that, I would notice a lot of other posters weren’t ripped up in this way.

Some more direct backlash that I’ve received is through the advocacy submission forum.

At Fenner Hall the Fenner Residents Committee (FRC) have a forum where you can submit advocacy issues. I actually received a few of those saying I was a ‘man basher’ blaming men for the issue. That was quite interesting because I received the first advocacy complaint within a week of the campaign starting. It was before I’d even had an event, and I had just put up information posters.

More directly, people were starting arguments with me on Facebook about the purpose of what I was sharing, claiming that it was too political and I shouldn’t be sharing those videos on the Facebook page. For example, I shared a TED talk and it was an expert talking about the prevalence of domestic violence in Australia and how men are the main perpetrators. It wasn’t an opinion piece, it was just relaying facts from a document. Someone decided to comment this was ‘man bashing’ despite the topic being about men literally bashing women.

Given these challenges you’ve faced within Fenner Hall specifically, what support have you received from other colleges?

I have received support from a few passionate individuals that I’ve approached, but when trying to explain why this is important; why we need to stand as a united front, why all the colleges are on different playing fields at the moment, why there’s no transparency about what the disclosure process is (which is really important information that should be relayed to students that live in Res halls), none of those were really taken on board. So I’ve approached some people in leadership positions relevant to the topic of sexual violence, and it’s not as though they have directly said “we’re not interested”, but they’re just not being proactive with trying to implement these things in a lot of ways. But that’s not always the case, at some colleges they’ve actually been really proactive to the best of their ability, but I would say more so it’s gone the other way, which is very unfortunate.

What are some of the positives? There’s got to be a lot of them with starting a campaign like this.

I would say a lot of changes have happened, especially within Fenner Hall this term. Posters aren’t being ripped down anymore and I haven’t seen a negative advocacy complaint for two weeks, which is a good development. I received a positive advocacy issue saying that the campaign has been quite effective and that they’re excited to see where it’s going. I’ve actually also received quite a few messages from students at Fenner Hall telling me that when they see a poster it makes them feel a little bit better, or how people have kind of tested the waters, disclosing to me in quite a positive sense. So those are some changes that I’ve seen, and I have noticed that people are feeling more comfortable to discuss or relay how they’re feeling after seeing all this information up. I was really worried that it would potentially trigger some people, even though that’s clearly not what I’m trying to do, but most of the feedback I’ve received is really positive. I would also say, quite a few people have reached out to me, student groups like the Red Cross and ANUSA are taking me seriously, which feels quite good. That’s a positive for sure.

Finally, what does success in this campaign look like to you?

 Success for me looks like a society where we aren’t afraid of speaking up about these issues. They are happening, so let’s talk about them. I strongly believe that starting conversations and normalising this discussion about sexual violence and respectful relationships are ways forward to prevent these acts from occurring. All in all, I would say that if one less person is sexually assaulted on campus, then the STOP Campaign has been an overall success.

For more information see The STOP Campaign at http://www.thestopcampaign.com/