There have been several stories this year that have highlighted the need for strong and clear policies on our campus regarding the reporting of sexual assault and rape. From studies illustrating high numbers of students who have experienced assault, to actual reports of it, few campuses have remained unaffected.
When it comes to Trinity, this Editorial Board has long called for the College to introduce a more transparent reporting process for incidents of sexual assault and rape. While all the systems in place are reasonable (if not exactly robust), their hidden nature is unhelpful. Students who have just had a traumatic experience should not have to go digging through the Junior Dean’s website or the Dignity and Respect Policy to find out what their next step is.
However, no changes have come and, once again, it has fallen on Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) to take steps to ensure that students know the options available to them.
Its most recent action takes the form of a 12-page set of guidelines, dealing with everything from consent to specifically how you can report an incident of rape or sexual assault. The “What Do I Do Now?” document is designed to offer students clear instructions at a time when everything may feel like it is spinning out of control. This is something the College should have done years ago.
This won’t be the only change spurred on by the union with regards to this issue, either. Welfare Officer-elect Aisling Leen has promised to work with College officials to introduce a clearer policy that improves on the current ad-hoc, case-by-case approach. While she put a long timeline on when this would be completed – five years was her aim – it shows that there is at least an understanding from the union that the process desperately needs to be addressed. The College, for its part, seems patently lacking in any such awareness.
It should not be the case that the union has to create this document simply to explain the processes already in place. However, its initiative is to be commended and if it is successful in securing a better reporting policy, it will have done students a great service – one Trinity itself has failed to offer.