A full-time Women’s Officer is irreplaceable

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A full-time Women’s Officer is irreplaceable

In an article for Pi Online, Gabriel Gavin used the Women’s Officer role as an example of a sabbatical position that could be cut. He instead proposed that the police should be more involved, and that a counsellor could do the work the Women’s Officer does.

We asked Annie Tidbury, current WO, to respond to these points.

Police – “What is needed is a closer collaboration between counselling services and the police”

Gabriel Gavin’s idea that we should jettison the Women’s Officer and instead work with the police is potentially very harmful. Someone who has experienced sexual assault had already had their control taken away from them; pushing students to report to the police only serves to further rob them of control. This suggestion also ignores the well-documented fact that the police can be really awful at handling cases of sexual assault. Recently we learnt that 26% of all sexual offences reported to the police are not even reported as crimes.

The suggestion that UCLU should be forging links with the police to tackle sexual assault is insulting to those students who have experienced the institutionalised racism, sexism and/or violence of the police. When students come to see me it’s because they want to talk to a peer.

Full-time counsellor instead of WO – “And how much would it cost to employ a full-time counsellor to deal with these kinds of cases? The going rate is around the £25,000 per year mark, precisely the salary that Ms Tidbury draws as a sabbatical officer”

Firstly, specialist trained counsellors cost more than £25,000 a year. I have no idea where Gavin has pulled that number from. And secondly, in an ideal world we would have both a Women’s Officer and a properly funded counselling service with a trained specialist in sexual harassment and sexual violence.

But the idea that the latter can replace the former ignores the fact that Women’s Officer is a representative role, and also demonstrates a huge misunderstanding of the position. My job is to understand women students’ experiences at UCL and improve them, not just to support students. This is why seeing students on an individual basis cannot be split from the adversarial side of my job. A full-time counsellor employed by the university would not sit on UCL boards and committees – they could not agitate for institutional change. And if there’s one thing that’s become clear to me over the last four and a half months, it’s that UCL needs to be listening to women students.

You can keep up-to-date with Annie’s work as an officer by following her on Twitter at @UCLU_WO

Featured image credit: Mimi Launder

A full-time Women’s Officer is irreplaceable Reviewed by on December 17, 2014 .

Annie Tidbury explains why anything else would be inadequate



  • Anon

    tl;dr: Overpaid, underbrained Sabb tries to justify her ridiculous position that is helping to sink UCLU.

  • Jud

    The article promises to deliver an explanation on why I, as a woman, need a full-time Woman’s Officer. Am I missing a part of the article?
    The chances of sexual assault are incredibly low, despite Annie’s repeated scaremongering. More importantly, I’m incredibly offended by the suggestion that someone can be elected who represents all of the women of UC! Does Annie represent me? I hope not looking at her twitter feed!!!
    I’m sure most women of UCL would prefer subsidized events and drinks to the tune f £25,000 a year thank you very much.

  • Not Annie TidBury

    Hi Annie,
    Don’t you dare even suggest you come anywhere close to representing me. I don’t need an overpaid, unintelligent “elected” official to represent me as a Woman of UCl.
    Yours, insulted,
    Not Annie Tidbury

  • Not Annie TidBury

    You do not represent Woman of UCL, Annie. Get off your high-horse.

  • You're Gavin a laugh

    While I agree with what you’re saying, the motion (not Gabriel Gavin’s) proposes one or more part time women’s officers, not the complete removal of the post. Interested to see what your response to this is.

  • a women

    1. None of the sabbatical officers represent ALL students. Just because you don’t think you benefit from a women’s officer doesn’t mean other people don’t.

    2. Sexual assault is not incredibly low. In a rerecent survey (on students on campus) it was found that 1 in 7 respondents experienced some form of serious physical or sexual assault and more than 66% had experienced verbal or nonverbal harassment. Please do not belittle these stats.

    3. Annie is not there to support students who come to her but to ensure these things don’t happen in the first place. Prevent.

    4. Overpaid and unintelligent? Well all sabbaticals are paid the same amount. So they are all overpaid. Unintelligent? Given she graduated from UCL I think she’s at least as intelligent as you are.

    A women represented well by Annie Tidbury

    • Not Annie

      1. What I’m saying is that not enough people would benefit from a Woman’s Officer to justify the ridiculous outlay. I’m sure having a Bad Wifi in the Cafe Officer might be helpful some of the time, but its a cost and benefit analysis.
      2. Sexual assault reporting is an incredibly interesting field. Please don’t belittle my understanding of what is an often misunderstood topic of debate by throwing statistics out there without reference.
      3. How on earth could a student, who many feel alienated by, try and make sure that sexual assaults don’t happen? If Annie is a secret crime fighter then that’s fantastic. Poxy “campaigns” that have become a running joke of UCL are not helping anyone.
      4. Yes, all the sabbs are overpaid. I argue she is unintelligent based on this transparent and embarrassing plea to save her cushy job.

  • Another Woman

    Even if I never benefit from the work Annie is doing, having a Women’s Officer is such an important thing, and something which we shouldn’t lose at UCL, even if the position reverts to being part time.

    If I were the victim of a campus sexual assault, I wouldn’t want to go to the police, or a counsellor; I would want to talk to a knowledgeable peer who is on my level. Some people may prefer to talk to the police or a counsellor, but having the Women’s Officer there as an option, as a peer who can guide you through the process of next steps and recovery, is vital.

    Also I don’t really think there can be much doubt about whether Annie’s work benefits students in general — Zero Tolerance, for example, is a policy with the eventual goal or completely ending campus sexual harassment. In what way does that not benefit woman students? Or, for that matter, any student? Making campus a safer and more pleasant space = yes please. Just because you can’t see the results right in front of your face doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

    • Not Annie

      Well, if £25,000+ (office space, national insurance contribution, etc.) is being spent on the very nebulous goal of “making campus a safer and more pleasant space” which could be spent on things that benefit me that I will see in front of my face, then I’m pretty right to complain? Yes, I could argue that a part-time officer might be necessary.
      To go back to your point, UCL Sabbs have very little power and opportunity to change anything, especially someone like Annie who has sparked such controversy and alienated so many people. I don’t see how Saabs can continue to have such loft ambitions of having a general effect on student life. It makes me laugh. Who do they think they are??

  • Also a women

    I have been sexually assulted & I needed the women’s network to make me feel safe on campus again. Ucl is shit and did nothing to help me.

    I also like cheap booze. I play sports.

    • Not Annie

      If you are reffering to me I’m sorry to hear that. I’m glad the women’s network assisted you. However, the woman’s network does not mean we have to have a PAID FOR officer wasting money which could be spent on your cheap booze and sports.

  • Ben

    Just wanted to add something that I’ve been aware for a while since I have friends that work in supporting victims of crime. They seem a little bit bemused by some of what is said in this article when I’ve put it to them.
    Most councillors for victims have professional training. There are are many well known charities available with trained councillors for victims to speak to confidentially about their problems. This is particularly true for sexual crimes with 24h dedicated hotlines avaliable. Most councillors are unpaid volunteers and I know that the couple I know arnn’t happy with the sort of thing Annie is putting in writing. They never would expect to be paid for making such a valuable contribution! There is always a shortage of councillors. If you care deeply enough I would encourage anyone reading this to volunteer just a couple of hours a week to these services and help far more than 2 people a week! The biggest demand is for telephone councillors but I believe a face to face service is offered as well. These services are chronically undermanned.
    Why not have an unpaid volunteer who helps coordinate this sort of thing if people think its enough of a problem on campus?


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