Anti Bullying Week 2017: Interview with a KCL Harassment Advisor

Jack-KilkerAs you probably know by now, this week is Anti Bullying Week 2017.  Throughout the week, we’re focusing on the importance of recognising, respecting and celebrating our diverse identities and experiences and empowering ourselves and others. It’s also crucial to know how to seek out support when we need it. Earlier in the week, we sat down with Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator and Harassment Advisor Jack Kilker, who explained to us how he and his fellow advisors can support KCL students on campus.

Can you explain to us what a Harassment Advisor does?

As a Harassment Advisor, it’s my role, as part of the Harassment Advisor Network, to provide information and guidance to students who make contact with us through the It Stops Here portal. Our aim is to be supportive and non-directive, and we work to provide a confidential service, meaning that we do not share the details of anything discussed with us with anyone else, unless we have to for the safety of others. We are there to listen, to understand, and to provide students with a number of options which they can follow in order for them to choose what they feel is most appropriate for them.

What type of issues can a student come to a Harassment Advisor with and how can they reach out?

Anything! It’s not a Harassment Advisors job to tell a student what does or does not constitute harassment or bullying, or to tell a student how to feel. If you feel that you’ve been in any way harassed or  bullied, (if you don’t know what those terms mean, here’s a handy guide) then please do speak to an Advisor, even if you decide that you don’t want to take your report any further.

You can speak to us by making an appointment through the It Stops Here portal.

Help, support, advice, guidance signpost.What can students expect when they meet with a HA?

We have a service users agreement which we all work to, and this sets our clearly what a student can expect from us, but also what we expect from a student using our service. We’re not a professional support service, nor are we the people you make a formal report to, and we cannot advocate on your behalf. We’re a first point of call, and someone with a lot of information to provide, who can help you work out what it is that you want to happen next for you, and how to go about it. At our most basic, we’re also just someone to listen and to help you decide what to do next

 What made you want to become a Harassment Advisor?

When I was at university, Harassment Advisors weren’t a thing. Even in just a few years, higher education has started to make so much progress and become so much more proactive about educating students and staff on what harassment is, and what we can do to try to stop it happening. Being a Harassment Advisor really appealed because I’ve been working in roles like this for a few years now, and I’ve collected a bit of knowledge about harassment along the way, and I think it’s important to use that and give it back, to try to make sure that we’re all working towards a society where harassment doesn’t exist anymore.

I also think it’s important that students who want to speak to an Advisor have as many options of people to speak to as they can, and can always be seen promptly. As a gay man, it’s important to me that if a student should specifically want to speak to someone like them about what they’ve experienced, that I can provide that for them. I’m also a Harassment Advisor for staff in the School of Law.

The theme of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week is ‘All Different, All Equal’.  What does this mean to you and how can we best ensure an inclusive campus?

alldiffallequalThis is such an important theme. Difference has always historically been seen as a bad thing, a reason to divide, a reason to other. Thankfully, in some parts of society, this is very much starting to change – difference has become, or is becoming, something to recognise, something to celebrate, something which can make us powerful. The idea of equality should not be far behind this. It’s something which is central to my work, to my politics and to my identity, and it’s something which we should all have a shared interest in working towards.

I think education is central to inclusivity. That could be through having a diverse curriculum and a diverse range of perspectives presented, so that individuals can learn about their own history and identity, but also about those of others, and recognise how the two differ and interact. It could be education in terms of naming harassment, bullying and discrimination, naming differences and naming our own experiences. If we understand systems of power and oppression, and if we have ways of naming, identifying and recognising this oppression, as well as our broader experiences, then we can start to call these out, to educate others, and to dismantle these systems. Education can give all people the power to recognise inequality, and understand the reasons behind it, and then enable them with the tools to work against this inequality. This is why education, in its many different forms, is so important.

Last year’s theme was ‘Power for Good’.  What is yours and how do you use it?

I love the idea of ‘power for good’, and the ownership that places on each individual to use their skills and experience to try to make a positive change. I think my power for good could be that I’m a good listener, I like learning from others and hearing what they have to say, challenging them, and using their knowledge to develop my own.

Any diversity and inclusion-related book recommendations?

Oh, I could go on, I have quite a few favourites at the moment!

To read, I have to say two. Fiction-wise, I would recommend ‘Call Me By Your Name’ written by André Aciman. It’s a love story between two men in 1980s Italy, one in his mid-twenties and the other in his late-teens. It explores romance, maturity, bisexuality, coming out, acceptance, and eroticism, and is absolutely beautifully written. It also doesn’t focus around some sort of ‘shock-horror he’s gay’ narrative or moment, it exists in world in which the characters understand themselves and their sexuality and work within that, rather than focussing on the reactions of those around them, which is really refreshing for anyone who’s read a lot of queer literature.

In terms of non-fiction, it has to be ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge. This is a powerful, challenging and incredibly honest account of Eddo-Lodge’s experience of race as a black woman and feminist. With an understanding of intersectionality at its core, this book accounts for the several years since Eddo-Lodge wrote a blogpost of the same name (‘Why I’m No Longer…’), and the responses she’s received to this from people of all races across that time period. It also builds on the original blogpost and discusses the emotional labour placed on people of colour, and especially on women of colour, when justifying and explaining racism to those who do not experience it.

Thank you Jack!

Remember, if you feel that you are experiencing bullying or harassment in any form, you do not have to tolerate it and there is a wealth of support on campus, both practical and emotional.

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