The alleged assault happened last year in October. The victim – who wishes to remain anonymous for privacy reasons – reported the incident to the ISS. But according to her, the faculty did not take the matter seriously. That is why she took the initiative for this protest. “Instead of getting help, I had to deal with victim blaming by the Confidential Counsel Committee,” she says. “What makes it even worse is that the perpetrator was a student counsellor and specialised in gender and sexual violence.”
Leaving the country
The student has had a number of meetings with a confidential counsellor. She has been waiting for more information on how to file a formal complaint. For months, the student sat on hold until she received a message from the confidential counsellor yesterday that the student against whom she had filed a complaint will be leaving the country on Monday. “All those months, I never heard anything. I really wanted to file a complaint, and now suddenly I hear that he’s graduated and got his diploma and will leave the country in a few days,” the student states.
Given that there is not much time to deal with the case officially, students gathered together to voice their dissatisfaction. Students are demanding that the institute take strict measures against the alleged perpetrator. In addition, they demand that the faculty changes the complaint procedure so that it is more capable of withstanding power abuse, and that a background check is carried out for people who apply for the position of student counsellor.
Protest this afternoon as well
Dean of Students Martin Blok cannot comment at this moment because he is ‘involved as a confidential counsellor in this matter’. The students resumed their protest on Friday at half past twelve in the afternoon. This time the protest is not just about this individual issue, it is a general protest against sexual intimidations and institutional power abuse.
“We are not going to stop until our demands are met,” says the initiator. “In the lecture halls, the ISS teaches us all about social justice, that there is always a way to change and improve things, but when push comes to shove, they say they can’t do anything about it. The Institute has failed to protect students.”
Official response from the board of ISS
The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) strives to be a safe and inclusive community for its students and staff members. We are highly committed to providing a learning, living, and working environment free from discrimination and harassment. Should students or staff members experience any unwanted behaviour, there is a procedure in place in which a confidential advisor can be contacted. We deeply regret that one of our students has felt insufficient support in our existing procedure. We also recognize how this incident has affected our student body, and we will take the necessary steps to ensure our institute is a place where students and staff members feel heard and are protected.
As we seek to protect the rights of all persons, in this case, accuser and accused, we cannot go into the details of this individual case. Should there be any mistake or unclarity in the procedure that is followed here, this will be addressed. In a broader context, we are in close contact with the group of students and have carefully listened to their needs and expectations in situations when unwanted behaviour is experienced. Together with ISS’ Team of Confidential Advisors, the students and others in ISS, we will closely look at the existing procedures and roles of different bodies/offices and make necessary adjustments for a transparent, fair and further professionalized approach.