Written by Middlesex University Student, Natasha White
In my first year at Middlesex I had one of the MDXSU community placement working with Citizens UK to do some research around Perceptions and Experiences of Sexual Harassment. This was a great opportunity to get alongside the first year of my BSc Psychology course and definitely helped me get a better picture of the wider context my studies fit into.
In my second year, I was able to get a role as Campaign Community Coordinator for the Sexual Harassment campaign that built on the research I had been working on the year before and got to work more actively with students on the themes that had come out of our work. I really enjoyed being able to use the research we had done to actually work to make changes on campus and work with other students who are also passionate about tackling sexual harassment while doing so.
Fast forward to my third year; where I am now. I never could have predicted that the job offer I received in November 2016 for that community placement would lead me, two years on, to be sitting in a committee room in the Houses of Parliament feeding into a pre-consultation group for the review of UK Hate Crime Laws!
The Hate Crime Laws currently cover Disability, Race, Sexual Orientation, Transgender Identity and Religion, but this review will also look at other characteristics including Gender and Age as candidates for potential additions to this list. The work I have been involved links specifically to the Gender aspect, working towards getting Misogyny designated as a hate crime and I am now working with Citizens UK, feeding into their work around this issue.
My experiences haven’t stopped there though. I am now attending update meetings throughout the course of the Law Commission consultation over the next couple of years, chaired by Stella Creasy (MP for Walthamstow), to hear about the progress of the review, how the different areas link together and how all of the different organisations who have come to the table and are attending these meetings can work together to make sure the review gets the most accurate picture of peoples’ experiences, from all backgrounds, identities and locations across the country. As a woman who identifies as pansexual and having a hidden disability, this is particularly important to me as, with the current laws, even if a hate crime is committed against an individual because of more than one characteristic, e.g. disability and sexual orientation, it will only be recorded, tried and punished based on one of these as it is only allowed to tick one box. This means that we don’t get the true picture of how many people are going through these experiences and those who have been survivors of hate crime are not getting the support or space they need to have their experiences heard.
One of the things that you often don’t get with studying a degree, even doing a dissertation, is the chance to see the sort of impact your work and research can have. I have been really lucky to have this experience so early on in my career (even in my student career) and I hope this can go to show other students the sort of impact we can have, without realising you could, at any stage in your career.