Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 19)

A day in the life: Jennifer Hastings

This is the first blog in a new ‘day in the life’ series from KCL’s Diversity Digest blog. In this new feature we will go behind the scenes, getting to know our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Team and find out more about their work. 

Our first ‘day in the life’ feature comes from Jennifer Hastings our EDI Projects & Partnerships Manager. 


Portrait of Jennifer Hastings.

Jennifer Hastings

My name is Jennifer (pronouns she/her) and I started at King’s in June 2021 as the EDI Projects and Partnerships Manager. The EDI function at King’s consists of two teams; the Consultancy team, managed by the Head of EDI, and the Projects and Partnerships team, who I manage. My team includes five Project Officers and one Project Administrator, who provide EDI support and expertise within seven faculties. I also lead on King’s race equality activity.

The way I start my day varies- thanks to hybrid working I have a choice between pre-work exercise, a lie-in or the commute to Lavington Street. If I am in the office, I always stop off at a coffee shop (hot chocolate, extra hot) on my way in. Tip: Coco di Mama gives you a free chocolate with your hot drink.

Once a week, my morning begins with a Project and Partnerships (P&P) team meeting (we now try to alternate between in-person and online). This is an opportunity to hear what is happening within the faculties, discuss current projects and support each other with any challenges. We also make an effort to provide feedback and praise on a regular basis, which is an easy way to help colleagues feel appreciated.

As the lead on our race equality work, I oversee the implementation of our Race Equality Action Plan (REAP). This formed part of our Race Equality Charter submission, which we received a bronze award for in 2020. Whilst we are proud of this achievement, the REAP reminds us that there’s still so much work to do to become an anti-racist institution. It ensures we continue to evaluate the impact of our interventions and helps us focus on systematic change.  The REAP belongs to everyone at King’s and actions have been allocated to various teams, including the P&P team. I have regular meetings with team members who are leading on a REAP project, such as the development of a race equality allyship tool. The purpose of these meetings is to ensure the project is on the right path and provide support when needed.

In between meetings, I catch up on emails and Teams notifications. Having used Zoom in my previous job, it took some time to adjust to Teams however I am now a convert! I find it makes collaboration and communication a lot easier (although I do miss the ‘touch up my appearance’ option on zoom).

Lunch is an obvious highlight of the day and I am a strong believer in making the most of my lunch break. If I am working from home that either means a walk to a local café, a spot of reading or catching up on Netflix. I’m also partial to some of the opportunities at King’s, such as a recent online Trustee fair that enabled me to chat with some brilliant charities.

In the afternoon, I may have some ‘desk time.’ The nature of EDI work makes my role really varied. I may be writing a committee paper, developing a mechanism for tracking race equality progress, or liaising with colleagues across King’s to see how we can collaborate. King’s is a complex organisation and so, since I joined, I have dedicated quite a bit of time to understanding the context of the REAP and the progress that has already been made.

It’s important for the function to maintain its expertise and keep on top of new EDI developments. One of our Project Officers has developed some microaggression training and so we recently had a ‘train the trainer’ session to enable the rest of the team to support with session delivery. This is one of my favourite parts of the role and I feel lucky to be surrounded by intelligent, passionate colleagues who help me become the best EDI practitioner I can be.

My plans after work vary. On a good day I might meet a friend to see some comedy. On less ambitious days I will catch up on whatever series I’m watching (my most recent obsession was Yellowjackets). EDI has been a passion of mine long before I started working in the area and so it’s not unusual for ‘work’ topics to spill over into other parts of my life, whether that’s my choice of reading material or a debate around the dinner table.

 

Experiences of racial discrimination on clinical placements: A narrative analysis of medical student perspectives.

KCL Intercalated Bachelor of Science (iBSC) Primary Care Student Luckshi Jegatheeswaran is currently researching medical student experiences of racial discrimination whilst on clinical placements. Luckshi is inviting KCL medical & intercalating students, between the years 2 – 5 to contribute to the project by sharing their experiences.


Why is this study important?

The purpose of the study is to understand how medical students can experience racial discrimination – whether directed at them, other students, or members of staff and to understand the immediate and lasting emotional impacts of these experiences.

The NHS boasts the UK’s most ethnically diverse public sector workforce. Increasing awareness of the experiences of people of ethnic minorities within the healthcare team (from medical students to senior staff) is crucial. This will facilitate greater understanding of the experiences of these groups. It will also allow the identification of areas where measures that will empower and create safe workspaces can be taken, benefiting the well-being of healthcare professionals from ethnic minorities.

What is the aim of the study?

  • To understand how medical students can experience racial discrimination- whether directed at them, other students, or members of staff.
  • To understand the immediate and lasting emotional impacts of these experiences.

Who can take part in the study?

  • Medical & intercalating students between years two and five.

What is involved?

  • You will complete an anonymous survey. The survey will ask you to state your course and year of study. You will be asked to describe your experiences of racial discrimination on medical placements.

How do I take part?

  1. Read this participant information.
  2. Submit your experiences using this online form

For further information please contact Luckshi via email: luckshi.jegatheeswaran@kcl.ac.uk

 

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

To mark the United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London shares how you can make a difference and tackle racial discrimination. 


The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed worldwide on March 21 each year. The day aims to remind people of the harm caused by racial discrimination. It also encourages people to remember their obligation and determination to combat racial discrimination.

I only just this year learnt that the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established six years after an event, known as the Sharpeville tragedy or Sharpeville massacre, which captured worldwide attention. This event involved police opening fire and killing 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa, March 21, 1960.

The UN General Assembly called on the international community to increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination when it proclaimed the day as a UN Day of observance in 1966. It also called on all world states and organizations to participate in a program of action to combat racism and racial discrimination in 1983. It held the World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in 2001.

“Youth standing up against racism” is the theme of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2022. A theme that should be close to all university’s hearts especially those like us that have declared themselves determined to be anti-racist.

Young people have the option of posting their opinions regarding discussions on human rights and racial discrimination at Voices of Youth, which is UNICEF’s online bulletin board for young people.

As part of the King’s community, there’s various ways for you to play your part in standing up against racism. EDI will be hosting active bystander training for students on 28th & 30th March and 1st April which you can sign up to here.  We are also delivering microaggression training to staff & students, which will teach you to identify, call out and respond to racial microaggressions. If you have witnessed racial discrimination and wish to report it, you can find out how on our Dignity at King’s webpages.  This also includes the option of reporting anonymously, which helps us monitor patterns to inform our proactive work.

Our Race Equity Inclusive Education Fund (REIEF) has provided over £99,000 across 13 projects, two of which are particularly relevant to today (Gargie Ahmad is bringing anti-racism into education and training for mental health research and practice, and Sapphire Williams is exploring anti-racism globally). Gargie will be telling us more about their research in an upcoming blog.

International Women’s Day – Power to the Woman

To make International Women’s Day 2022, King’s College London student Karen Ng wrote a poem titled ‘Power to the Woman’. Karen took inspiration from visions of a more equal world contributed by members of the King’s community via our  International Women’s Day padlet‘.


Photographic portrait of Karen Ng

Karen Ng.

You can watch Karen recite ‘Power to the Woman’ here.

To see a great woman

you don’t have to look behind you.

Stick it to the man. That is, the unspoken

man on the hill we keep the woman

at the foot of. The hill’s keeper blocking

from the stairs the woman of colour

and everyone gender non-conforming

every trans person. The hill

we deny ever having witnessed.

A hill with stairs she cannot climb? Better now–

is it still sacred. Do we live together

still on this cracked earth? Here is the power

the power to the woman-identifying.

The sheep was taught to be a sheep

but it climbs the hill as anyone can.

 

Without fear of thorns that could

follow her in the shadow

you shouldn’t have walked

in at all, the hollow tooth-gaps

peering from the self-made hill-peak

asks her to show her teeth.

 

Before anything there were

mothers and guardians who held us

in hands scrawling birthday cards

our waking born into the earth

accepting and humankind denying.

By all contested public accounts in contests

they never signed up for, allowed ENOUGH

#and LACKING at the same time.

Shot up with every other, above woman-hands

in the pocketless weight of all nurtured duty

glistens the stoic silver of chains

old and weeping from her cuffs.

 

Twice as good and twice as bad

shouldn’t matter under sunbeams.

That broad, motley sweeper never learnt identity.

In all its natural history it never

wondered if it deserved the warmth.

She has to walk the jagged edges

to reach the same door. Indoors

a chasm shaped like a wet slug taunts

with double standards

barely looking when it should

then too much

kisses the laughing palms

of self-assigned gods

splitting into branches, firing her worth

into shapely one note melodies.

Even the single one never mind the many!

Cut from her grip. Then

 

a horn self-fashioned

she lays at her feet.

 

Happy New Year

Content Warning: This blog contains references to suicide, self harm & eating disorders that some readers my find upsetting. 

 


 

The writer wishes to remain anonymous and protect the privacy of those whom the story is about so no names are given and instead ‘our/my daughter’ and ‘she’ are used.

 


 

 

 

 

Happy New Year

I am writing this on 24 February 2022, as the world returns to some semblance of normality post pandemic.

Yet I am stuck.

Since about 12.45 am on New Year’s Day my life changed and I am like a swimmer under water.

I was happily seeing in the New Year at a local pub. Chatting to strangers. Watching Jools Holland. My little girl was left at home alone. She felt so unhappy, she took action to cause herself deliberate harm and endanger her life. She is 15. In writing this I have been made aware of and been asked to comply with the Samaritans guidelines to “Steer clear of portraying anything that is easy to imitate, for example where the materials or ingredients involved are readily available and providing details on how it was carried out.” I want to respect this. But I also think it is important for all of you who are parents to know that I have been rebuking myself every minute about how preventable this was. The truth is she didn’t have to go very far to get what she needed, and my complacency and ignorance meant I never considered there to be a risk. Knowing what I know now, I would do things very differently.

Let’s flash back. Over the last few months, we had our suspicions and reports she had been drinking and vaping and she was generally ‘acting out a bit’. At some point in those few months, she had told someone at school she had made herself sick in the early lockdown. We had been to see the GP. Been referred to CAMHS (Children and adolescent mental health services for those lucky enough not to know) and been rejected (not the right kind of eating disorder).

The potential eating disorder and lack of treatment had left me a bit paralysed, but she received some counselling in school and I guess I had put it out of my mind. We had tried talking to her. Tried grounding her in relation to the drinking and vaping. That week (the one between Christmas and New Year) we had found incontrovertible evidence. A part-drunk, 1-litre bottle of vodka and a mountain of vaping paraphernalia. We grounded her again. A reasonable parenting response, I think. We grounded her, having had what we believed to be a constructive and supportive conversation explaining why we were doing that. We see ourselves as liberal, empowering parents.

That is why she is home alone. We asked her if she wanted to do something with us? If she wanted to go out with us. No, no no. I am going to my room.

Every day I question myself about our decisions that day and each decision since. I no longer have confidence in my own judgement.

One of my regular thoughts is what would have happened if we had stayed home? Would it not have happened?

Or would she have called us for help?

Or would she not have called us for help and stayed suffering?

Would we have found her dead in her room – how long would it have been before we went to get her up in the morning on New Year’s Day?

Another recurring thought is, what if she had died?

I am numb now. What would I be doing? How would I be behaving if she were dead? I imagine telling people. I imagine her funeral. I find myself locking myself in the shower, turning it on and weeping.

Back to the pub. I see my partner take a phone call. I see their whole demeanour change. They dash to get their stuff clearly indicating I need to get mine. We leave the pub. They tell me our 15-year-old daughter has taken an overdose. Paramedics are on their way.

They can move quicker than me. I tell them to run home.

I arrive home to our normal looking house. Inside she is sitting on the sofa. She looks fine. There are 2 paramedics in the house. They ask us to sit in the kitchen. One of them comes to talk to us.

Writing this so much later, means I don’t really recollect the details of the conversation. I am sure I don’t believe it. I think it is some horrible hoax. She is pretending. She has made it up. They have made a mistake.

Anyway, both an age and not long after I find myself in an ambulance on our way to A&E. Luckily? She is still a child, so we get to go to Children’s A&E. We wait in chairs. She is messaging on her phone. She isn’t speaking to me. Everything about her body language rejects me. I don’t know what to say. I am arguably a bit drunk. (Let’s not forget less than 2 hours ago it was New Year’s Eve and I’d been living my normal life.)

We see one nurse. Doctor? She asks a load of questions. We return to chairs. Sometime later we get invited into the next bit. We are in a small room with a gurney and a chair. More people, more questions. Blood tests are required. I keep taking myself to the bathroom. I am feeling extremely queasy. I vomit bile – who knows how many times. Blood tests take a couple of hours it turns out.

The questions and the answers – so she took a load of tablets. I hear she then looked up what she should do. She did a ‘quiz’ on the NHS site. She called 111. Paramedics came. She has told someone in this chain she has been self-harming since she was 10. She has been making herself sick when she eats.

She refuses to lie down – she clearly doesn’t want to talk. I am numb – outwardly calm, inwardly beyond confused and upset. I lie down.

Each of the medics seems to ask the same questions. It is never clear to me how much they are asking me. How I should behave or what I should say. The truth is I know so little. What has been happening in her life. Why did she do this? How did she do this? One medic comments we use to see one or two ‘of’ these a month – now we see at least one a night. ‘One of these’ = teenage overdose!

The blood tests reveal ‘x’ level of the substance she took (explained in much more technical language). It was not a lie or a hoax. She needs to receive medicine. Medicine in the form of a drip for 12-24 hours. We are admitted. Thinking about it now, it must have been clear to the paramedics that she was going to be admitted. They had asked her to pack a bag. I too have a bag with ‘the necessities’. I have little or no recollection of how that happened.

We are on both a children’s ward and what coincidentally turns out to be an eating disorders ward. The pandemic has and the mental health impacts has driven the need for extra wards like this. The only moment of softness happens as we arrive in the ward. She looks around. She, for a few seconds, lets her guard down. Her face crumples. Her eyes fill with tears. I climb onto the bed and hold her. I cry a bit and tell her I love her. For a few seconds she lets me hold her. Then that moment ends – and we are separate, pushed apart by the force field she exudes.

The next 36 hours in retrospect were probably the most comforting of the last 7 weeks or however long it is. We were safe. She was on the drip. Doctors, nurses, people looked after us. We ate, slept, watched TV and read. I didn’t have to make any decisions. Me and her father rotated (Covid – only one visitor at a time). I can get tea and toast whenever I want. She occasionally lets me get her toast too.

At some point I get to go home. I clean the house. I shower. I eat. I talk to my other children I can’t sleep though, despite being beyond exhausted.

At the hospital we also spoke to people from CAMHS each on our own and together. They told us we had to make the house safe. Remove all dangerous things from her access. Her dad had to do that. Search her room. He had to remove a sharpener blade embedded in blue tack on the wall.  He had to take all the medicine out of our bathroom cupboard. All the cleaning products out from under the stairs.

They (CAMHS) do not think she is mentally ill. It is ‘social stressors’. They recommend counselling. They will check in in 7 days. They do. I get the most useful clear statement at that point. I ask should we just let her do what she wants? No. You have to parent. You must set boundaries. You also have to recognise that this (taking an overdose) is something she is capable of. It confirms my helplessness but also confirms we must carry on trying to be her regular parents. That there are no answers or ways out.

Eventually we went home. She slept. I won’t go through day by day. I am stunned by how life goes on. I haven’t taken a single day off work. Not because I can’t but because I can’t really sit with my own thoughts. Being at work gives me a focus. People meet me every day – as far as I can tell they think everything is fine. I am like someone trapped in jelly or underwater. The world around me moves – I watch it from the stillness of my inner panic and fear.

I socialise. I go away. I do nice things. I remain numb and terrified.

I work somewhere where I could get counselling immediately on the phone. That has been a lifesaver. She goes to a school that is massively supportive and professional. I am having counselling every week. She will start having some properly soon – it’s been ad hoc up till now. The immediate family have been trying to help and support.

Every day I want to burst into her room multiple times a day to check she is there, alive not overdosed, not cutting herself. Every day I wake up and am grateful to have another day with her. Every night I am glad that we have survived another day. Every day I am angry and afraid at myself, at her, at the world. I consume wellbeing and mental health resources constantly. I am still looking for the answer – even though I know the answer is external help and time.

I, until 1 January 2022, was a together person. I supported others and problem solved big world problems. Now I am a robot who walks on eggshells at home, terrified she is going to do it again. Sad and upset that I am none the wiser as to why she is so unhappy.

I wish I could write this to offer light at the end of the tunnel. I am far from the end of the tunnel yet. It is dark and it is cold, and it is lonely. I have realised is that I must take each day as it comes. That is in fact the only option. I know I must do what I can to look after myself. The counsellor tells me to be available to her – carry on letting her know I care. I try to do that every day. I tell her I love her. I hug her when she will let me.  Last night we tried to talk to her. She refuses to talk. I barely sleep. I am today in a daze – the worry is infinite.

I am grateful to have a support system and people I trust. I also know that people mean well and want to help but no-one really can. We live in a country where we got treated and did not have to think about the cost. For that I am forever grateful. We are being supported and yet I do not know if things will ever get better.

The thing I know is I would give pretty much everything I have up to ensure my daughter is safe, healthy and well and to turn the clock back to whenever she became so unhappy that this became a possibility.

All I can offer to readers is, if any of this resonates with you, don’t ignore it; do something and ask for help.


Guidance & Support

 

(Edited: 30th March 2022.)

The Disclosure

Content Warning: This blog contains references to rape & sexual assault that some readers my find upsetting. 


 

The writer wishes to remain anonymous and protect the privacy of those whom the story is about so no names are given and instead ‘our/my daughter’ and ‘she’ are used. The names of others are also changed.

 


 

 

 

 

 

My daughter was raped.

I have been thinking that every few minutes for the last few months whilst carrying on as normal on the outside.

I guess the nature of life-changing moments is no one knows they are life-changing until afterwards.

A Tuesday in June 2021.

I sat on my sofa, teeing up Ru Paul’s drag race to watch with my daughter.

My 17-year-old daughter.

Just as I was about to press play, with her sat beside me as usual in her usual cosy spot. The spot where she is comfy and out of my eyeline as I recline/cuddle up on the sofa – She says ‘I need to tell you something’.

I somehow knew in that moment it was going to be ‘big’.

I can’t actually remember exactly what she said because I wasn’t paying full attention. It was something like “I’m going to tell the teachers at school something tomorrow” and they’ll tell you or ask me if I have, so I’m telling you now.

Ok I said – what?

She mumbles something about talking about David. David was her boyfriend.

We’ve been in a national pandemic for what 14 months. At the start of the pandemic, she was going out with a different boy.

All through the first lockdown they chatted on the phone but didn’t see each other much. I didn’t think so much about that because well, it was a national lockdown, and we were supposed to limit contact. And I have this generally dismissive – they’re teenagers, how seriously should I take it – kind of mindset.

Anyway, not long after that lockdown lifted, (I found out some time later) she finished with boy 1. At some point she and David appeared inseparable, on the phone all hours of the day and night. Teenage infatuation and love I thought. Quite pleased that she had these functioning relationships. Boys her own age, boys who were studying and seemed serious about the future. Boys who, when I met them, whilst teenage and natural were also respectful. Boy 1 was more so than David, but David seemed fine. Every Friday night she headed off to spend the evening on Tooting Common as that’s where she was allowed to hang out – no indoor meetings allowed in these months of 2021.

Anyway, back to that Tuesday.

About David – hearing about things he did that I didn’t like.

What is the right response to that?

I have, in my day job a role in prevention, support and action to prevent sexual misconduct, harassment and violence. I have been saying we must have a trauma informed response. This terrible thing has happened and we must not make the reporting, the sharing, the aftermath worse than the thing itself.

These have been my words – in the abstract.

I am a rape and multiple assault survivor myself.

I felt that I was qualified to talk about these things. I understood.

Here I am in the moment.

My own daughter is ‘making a disclosure’. I sit frozen on the sofa.

Mostly my mind is saying can I just press play and watch Drag Race? My mind both racing and frozen says something like,

‘What do you mean?’

No real response a bit of mumbling.

I look at my daughter. I actually now can’t remember much more. I am trying to decide how to respond. Do I scream, cry, grab and hug her? Outwardly, I do very little. I say something like what do you want to happen? I think (I hope) in a calm, supportive empathetic voice. I am trying all at once to show her that I love her, that I care and accept her and that don’t blame her.

I want him not to be able to be in my lessons, so I don’t have to see him.

I said something like,

“are we talking about sexual assault?”

Some physical or audible reaction that confirms yes.

If we are then they might ask you if you want to report it to the police. They might have no option but to report it to the police. Are you prepared for him to be arrested?

I am fairly sure now at this point I am looking at her, my practical, problem-solving, process side has kicked in. I wondered then, and I wonder now, what she perceived in that moment. Did she think I was upset, angry, blaming her? Ashamed?

After few more moments silence her dad comes in, brings me a cup of decaffeinated tea. He still lives in the world before. The world when life was just about cups of tea and Drag Race. I say to her shall I play? And we watch Drag Race Down Under.

I now don’t know what I did next. I don’t know whether I told my partner, or not. I don’t think so. I didn’t tell anyone. I go into the daze that is now my head.

The evening as far as I remember carries on as normal – tv, bed, sleep.

Next morning, routine.

During this weird year I have taken started some regular, daily yoga and meditation. I force myself into that that Wednesday morning. As I am sitting there, I know I need to see her before she leaves for school.

I go into her room.

I say something like

‘I love you, I am here to support you. There is nothing you can tell me that will make me stop loving you. Whatever you decide to do will be right.’ We hug.

She goes off to school, I switch on for work.

It’s already an odd week as on the Thursday (tomorrow) we have a day off and some ‘couple time’ booked.

Work that Wednesday was full of things I felt I couldn’t not do. I was chairing an interview panel – non-negotiable. The afternoon – an onsite activity that was the culmination of many months of work at King’s.

What kind of monster am I that I just carried on as normal?

About 1250 I get a call. I am trying to wrap an interview up. I am also trying to get out of the door to ensure I am on time for my afternoon’s appointment.

It’s the deputy head of sixth form. Can you come in straight away? Your daughter has told us something we need to talk about.

What do you think I said?  Of course – I’ll be there as soon as I can?

No – I said.

No. I’m sorry I have a work thing I can’t avoid. It literally is the first time in months that is true. I think at that moment I truly believe it’s true I can’t not go to this thing. I also now realise I didn’t want to hear whatever else was coming.

What about tomorrow? Oh yes, we can come tomorrow. Tomorrow is better than today. First thing. My brain catches up. Oh no sorry – this is going to sound ridiculous but we have ‘plans’. At first it seems to me like those plans are fixed and can’t be changed.

In my mind there is this cold, hard logic. This has already happened.

That I take it seriously and believe her.

This also isn’t presenting an immediate risk. That’s how we categorise things isn’t it – risk?

Somewhere in my mind my logic is that nothing is going to get worse because of when we meet, so I don’t need to change my plans. Even as I type that, my own lack of compassion, my own lack of care makes me feel sick.

Have I told her dad yet? Can’t remember.

Have I told anyone? Nope.

I go to the work event.

I meet my friend and we go for drinks and dinner – yep, all normal.

Anyway, at some point we cancel our next day plans. I email the school.  We can actually come in first thing.

I wrote the majority of this some 3 weeks later. I am horribly hungover. I managed to stop drinking before I was sick. But I feel nauseous this morning. I am retching bile. I am alone. It is so hot and sweaty. I am beyond uncomfortable in so many ways.

I presumably tell her dad at some point that Tuesday night?  I have no memory of this now.

We go to school. We get the Tube. This now seems insanity as later we will have to come home on the Tube too – once we have heard. On the Tube you must maintain normality. In our car, our shock and grief might have come out more easily.

We go to school.

We go into a private office. We are wearing masks. We are still in a pandemic.

The two teachers sit a distance away. Would they always have done this? Or were they social distancing. I ask if we need to wear masks. No, its ok they say. We’ll keep our distance.

They talk. They are very kind. They are very clear and measured. I will always be grateful for how much I felt they knew what they were doing, for them believing and supporting her.

She has told them things. She and another girl have told them similar things. About David forcing her. Forcing her without her consent. Unprotected forced sex. David hitting her. David controlling her. The say they won’t give me, can’t give me, don’t think they should give me the details.

This is still the case – I don’t know the details. The not knowing is both a blessing and a curse – without details I am able to rationalise this into something not so bad – what is good rape exactly?

Did it happen in our house? We let him sleep over – the first boy that was allowed to stay in her room with her. Did it happen at the Common? Does it matter where it happened? Where what happened, I ask myself?

Without details I can make this the version I want it to be.

Without details though my mind can create the worst pictures imaginable too.

I ask the teachers a lot of questions.

That is what I do when in a crisis.

Who knows?

What will happen now?

Will the police be involved?

Are there pictures? Videos?

What are they doing in the short term about David?

What will happen in the longer term?

Has my daughter had any kind of medical check? STDs?

They answer.

They are describing my baby as having been in an abusive and coercive relationship.

She is 17.

She is a baby.

She is my baby.

How has this happened? How did I not stop this happening?

Since then, I have been obsessed with ‘memories’ on my phone – seeing her and siblings as cheerful, lively children. All the fun and joy we have had in our lives.

How did I manage to let this happen? My most basic job is to keep her safe and healthy.

I am calm inside and out, somehow; I am like a machine asking questions clarifying what to do.

I think I believe I can organise this into order and make it something that can be dealt with in an orderly fashion.

We are in the office for what seems like a decade. So many questions. It’s a pandemic and so no cups of tea – maybe there is a glass of water. I don’t remember.

Eventually we leave. The teachers are going to do things, they are going to coordinate/liaise with multiple agencies. They are going to keep us up to date. They are going to tell ‘the girls’ what’s happened.

They are going to get David and his parents into school. Seeking his voluntary withdrawal – if not, they can’t at this time stop him coming to school but will put in place ‘measures’. (He comes in. They agree to him not coming back to school, apparently ever. He is asked to make a statement with his version of events).

We leave the school. It is a warm day – we walk a few steps. We stop – I think he says something. I lean into him – I shed a very contained tear. My little girl was raped. We are stood in full view of the school playground. I feel that if I cry, if I say anything, I might crumble or dissolve. I also can’t bring myself to think or say anything.

We come home.

The afternoon is mechanical. We have the time off work – we were supposed to be out doing nice things. We watch unbelievable trash on TV. Every so often vocalising thought.

I can’t quite believe my thoughts spend so much time thinking about what is going to happen to David. I feel his life is over. He is being accused of multiple assaults and unacceptable behaviour. How will he recover from that? I also ask myself, why do I care? Why do I have any concern for him?

I don’t know.

I speak to my brother. He is a police officer. I ask him what to do, what will happen. Since that day he hasn’t called or messaged me about this – I find this unbelievably hurtful.

It is now nearly 4 weeks later.

Multiple agencies have met.

I have spoken to a social worker.

My daughter has spoken to a social worker.

Do we want an assessment for support? Do we want to be ‘in the system’?

Who is supposed to answer all these questions?

David and his parents came to school – they wanted to move him. He hasn’t been back to school since.

More girls have come forward.

The police have interviewed my daughter.

They have videoed her.

She went alone. She chose to go alone.

The pandemic continues.

School shut early.

We are isolating as her dad gets Covid.

I couldn’t cope. I took myself out of my life for a few days. I went away by myself  essentially to pretend this wasn’t happening and to create a new reality. For a brief moment it worked. I want to be there still. In an apartment alone. Spending evenings pretending I have a different life.

I still don’t know what happened to my daughter.

I don’t know what will happen.

I want someone to tell me.

I need to contact MASH (the multi-agency safeguarding team) to get support. I keep forgetting. I must put it on my list of things to do.

I have only told 3 people about what has happened. And I find it impossible to talk about. It changes everything when I tell someone. I am absorbed, suffocated and detached all at the same time by this thing that has happened.

She seems to be doing, ok?

She doesn’t want to talk to me about anything. If we need to talk about ‘it’, it’s very functional, it’s very matter of fact – ‘so and so rang’.

I don’t know what will happen.

I have thought through various pathways and scenarios.

We are waiting now.

What is she thinking? How is she feeling?

I don’t know.

How do I feel?

What will happen?

I don’t know.

3 weeks later – I’m still none the wiser. I wake up each morning – we go through the motions of life. The police interview is tomorrow.

Someone asked me the other day how she is doing. That is the question I ask myself constantly, and  the answer comes back – I just don’t know.


Support & Guidance

International Women’s Day – Get Involved

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London shares ways of getting involved in IWD 2022 and reflects on the underrepresentation of men in the EDI field. 


Once again it is International Women’s Day on the 8th March. I will miss this year’s festivities as I will be enjoying a much needed and long-awaited break in the US of A!

Portrait of Sarah Guerra

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London.

Their website tell us International Women’s Day is powered by the collective efforts of all. Collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity is what makes International Women’s Day impactful.

They quote Gloria Steinem:

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” – Gloria Steinem.

This year we are asked to imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

At King’s we have a variety of activity happening. Elevate, in collaboration with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team are hosting an online event on Tuesday 8th March 12:00-13:00 focusing on the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – #BreakTheBias.

Add your visions of a more equal world to our International Women’s Day Padlet. Ideas from the King’s community will form the inspiration for a poem which will be recited at the event by recent King’s graduate and poet, Karen Ng.

We will also hear from Aleida Borges, Research Associate at the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, about the institute’s work, as well as her research on women’s grassroots leadership.

You can also unleash your creative side at an International Women’s Day themed Poetry Lunch & Do Session on Wednesday 2nd March, 14.00 – 15.30. Find out more information and register for attendance in person or online.

I have really enjoyed reading the Padlet and look forward to the poem. I also find my thoughts turn to address something that has been on my mind for many years. Something that President & Principal, Professor Shitij Kapur noticed when he arrived at King’s. In short

Where are the men?

On his arrival we organised several listening exercises for him to hear and learn about equality diversity and inclusion efforts and issues across the University.

One with the EDI team. A team that is diverse compared to many at King’s in terms of gender identity, sexual orientation, race and religion – but is also predominantly cis women.

One for those who hold EDI champion positions across the university i.e., chairs of EDI committees, Vice Deans etc. Again, a reasonably diverse set of people but again the vast majority women.

Finally, one with our staff network chairs – a slightly more gender balanced group but still predominantly female.

Why is this?

It is something I notice in so many EDI arenas.

I am a member of the REF equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel – vast majority women. Similarly, our internal REF EDAP was all female. This is in stark contrast to the wider REF governance bodies internally.

In truth pretty much every EDI event I ever go to is vastly majority female and has a much greater representation of black, asian, minority ethnic, queer and disabled people than in my regular everyday workplace.

How do we change this?  If (and I paraphrase Gloria here) the story of the struggle for equality belongs to no single equality activist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights. If we want to get to that gender equal world, a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.  How do we make the ’together’ part so we can forge women’s equality that includes all people – and particularly the group that is often missing and yet still holds most the world’s power – men?

I am not going to do a long spiel.  My International Women’s Day call/plea to action is to ask all who read this to give me some ideas and thoughts as to how to get men into the room when we talk EDI.

Embedding wellbeing in uncertain times

Joy Whyte is Strategic Director, Education & Students, and the professional services lead for student mental health and wellbeing. To coincide with University Mental Health Day (3rd March 2022) Joy explores how we can embed wellbeing in uncertain times.


At the start of this academic year, the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Steering Group met in its newly configured form for the first time. I co-chair this group with Professor Juliet Foster, the academic lead for student mental health and wellbeing, with Wilna Gracias as the remarkably dynamic and knowledgeable Head of Student Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy.  

Joy Whyte leans against a stone rail, set alongside the exterior of a stone building. She is a white woman with auburn hair tied in a low plait and wears a teal top and jacket.

Joy Whyte, Strategic Director, Education & Students.

We started the meeting of the newly constituted group with a round of introductions, asking participants to share a time they were well supported and to describe the impact of that support. Rounds such as this – common in community organising practice, as a means of connecting group members – normally take 10 minutes at most. Ours took 50 minutes. In at an atmosphere of trust and confidence in one another, and a willingness to be collectively and individually vulnerable, we all shared stories of times when we had been challenged, and described the ways in which we had each been supported.  

Except for my own, those experiences are not mine to share, but anyone who has lived through two years of a global pandemic will have plenty of stories of their own: of isolation, of bereavement, of the difficulty of balancing work and family life (writ large as schools closed across the country), of caring responsibilities – both immediately and distantly, of health concerns and illness, of financial worries, instability around housing, difficulty in getting out to buy essentials, to name but a few. And sometimes a great many of these factors, in combination, exhaustingly set within a context of the intense ambient anxiety caused by a global health crisis.  

We also know that these factors have been felt differently – that black people and people of the global majority have been at greater risk from Covid, that women have carried a disproportionate childcare burden (affecting time for research, work, and rest), and that living arrangements have impacted in varyingly problematic ways for those who live alone, in shared accommodation, with a violent partner, or as a single parent.  

“More people have experienced a mental health crisis during the coronavirus pandemic than ever previously recorded”. – Mind, 2020.

The Prime Minister may think that we’re in post-pandemic times. But, even if you think the global health risk has subsided (and I believe only vaccine equity will assure that), the reverberations of living through such destabilising and precarious times seems set to be with us for some time. In November 2020, Mind revealed that “more people have experienced a mental health crisis during the coronavirus pandemic than ever previously recorded”. Mind warned of the risk of a second, mental health pandemic, and called for urgent action to mitigate the impacts of this, including investing in mental health services in the community. 

In February, the Office for National Statistics reported that 16-29 year olds feel significantly more anxious than the general population. 42% reported high levels of anxiety in the first half of February compared with 34% on average. Many King’s staff will be in this age group, and many more are directly supporting students who are experiencing these feelings of anxiety. The Student Minds Planning for a Sustainable Future report observed that “the human relationship between staff and students is still the key factor in the student experience and in supporting student mental health and wellbeing. How staff are supported becomes an important consideration.” 

In the 2018-2020 Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Report and Strategic Plan, we set out a pyramid support model. There are undoubtedly students – and staff – who need support at the uppermost levels (university specialist support services, and external specialist support services). Indeed, Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor UWE and President of Universities UK (UUK) noted in a One King’s leadership session on 24 February that “the increasing demands being made on Mental Health and Wellbeing both within university, NHS and 3rd sector agencies is significant. Universities are being expected to support high risk mental illness as the pressures on the NHS increase. This is being worked on by UUK working across Government Departments to encourage a joined-up solution”.  

Yet the base levels of the pyramid are equally important, and as King’s moves into the next phase of our strategic plan, the steering group’s focus is on illuminating further the Education Strategy’s ambition to “support positive wellbeing as a fundamental ethos of the university” and to “support and enhance the mental and physical wellbeing of students and staff through all aspects of the university experience”.  

Going back to our October meeting, individual stories about challenges sat within the context of the support we had each received – a meeting with a colleague or line manager in which we felt heard; a note left on a desk or in a locker by a co-worker; someone asking ‘how are you?’ months after a difficult event, and meaning it; cups of tea made; diaries cleared for a conversation; understanding and compassion. These were often seemingly small actions – of kindness, concern, and support – and they were profoundly meaningful.  

“Local factors play a significant role in staff wellbeing. Having a supportive team and a good direct line manager has been shown to be important for good wellbeing…” – University Mental Health Charter.

These experiences reflect the findings of Student Minds, whose University Mental Health Charter (which King’s is  working towards) states “Local factors play a significant role in staff wellbeing. Having a supportive team and a good direct line manager has been shown to be important for good wellbeing, in both the literature and feedback from staff participants in the Charter consultation.”  

Importantly, though, Students Minds note: “However, this can be precarious if not supported by the general culture of the university. This suggests a need for a combination of a general healthy culture and specific structures and practice, which ensure managers can and do support good wellbeing within their teams and respond appropriately to staff experiencing poor mental health.” 

For my own part, I think that whilst our individual experiences can catalyse change, by illustrating what support can work well (and conversely where an absence of support has heightened difficulties), the Education Strategy’s ambitions can be genuinely transformative. In the words of the King’s Community Charter we partly demonstrate our collective commitments to making the world a better place by “creating a culture that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing, and supports a proactive and holistic approach, whilst recognising the needs of the individual”. As a steering group, we look forward to sharing with you more details of what this means in practice, as we prepare the King’s application to the University Mental Health Charter.  


For guidance on mental wellbeing, and details of a range of sources of support, including Togetherall, see staff mental wellbeing 

Organisational Development are currently conducting a review of the support available to staff, with the outcome of the review to be shared in early May. If you’d like to share your views on King’s support for staff wellbeing, Organisational Development invite you to send your thoughts to OD@kcl.ac.ukusing the subject line ‘Wellbeing Review’. 

LGBT History Month Reflections from Professor Bronwyn Parry

Introducing Professor Bronwyn Parry, Vice President and Vice Principal (Service), King’s College London’s new Senior Sponsor for all things LGBTQI+.


Having been at Kings ten years this year (where did the time go!) I am delighted to say that this anniversary will also coincide with my elevation as KCL’s Senior Sponsor for all things LGBTQi+. The past decade has seen some very significant advances in thinking about such matters and there is much to celebrate in this year’s LGBTQi History Month.

Professor Bronwyn Parry

Professor Bronwyn Parry.

One of the most significant of these has been the inclusive ways in which we have worked to support members of the wider King’s community who are trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming. I remember very well how difficult it felt, in years gone by, to secure acceptance from colleagues and the wider community for anything that deviated, even marginally, from what was at the time, a seemingly all consuming hetero-normativity. And yet, here we are, not so many years hence, when I find that I can say that wonderful phrase ‘my wife’ without producing even a marginally raised eyebrow.

All of human life and behaviour undergoes continuous change and evolution. Ideas that some thought were completely unacceptable in the past (opening universities to people who came from working class backgrounds, for example) have now, thankfully, been fully revisited and our conceptions of what is fixed and fluid productively re-worked, as a consequence. By extending allyship to those in the trans community we create a safe space in which we can all reflect on the fluidity of what for many have been seemingly fixed categories. Transitions of all kinds, whether in gender or thought can be personally challenging, but also, consequently, highly generative of new understandings and approaches to matters that we thought, perhaps, long settled.

To help us with these ruminations, Proudly King’s has created a wonderful set of interactive events that that will open many new perspectives for all of us. I hope that everyone will take up opportunities that these afford to create fresh conversations and partnerships across and between our varied, staff, student and professional services communities in ways that help us improve understanding and knowledge of the experiences of all those whose lives do not directly mirror our own. This is, in essence, the promise of inclusivity that lies at the heart of all our EDI ambitions, one that I have, and will, work to deliver in my new role.

I wish everyone a very happy and productive LGBTQI History Month, one in which we come together to celebrate the strengths that diversity, in all its colours, can bring to the enhancement of life!


LGBTQ+ History Month Reflections from Sarah Guerra

As our celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month continues, Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London reflects on her own journey and asks readers how they will be better allies to members of the LGBTQ+ community. 


This LGBTQ+ History Month marks my 5th anniversary at King’s. It also sees me deciding to leave King’s later this year and means I have been in a reflective mood. One of the areas of the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy and development I am most proud of is working to develop and collaborate with staff networks. Proudly King’s are our ‘oldest’ network. This year for LGBTQ+ History month I would particularly like to amplify their voice and efforts.

Sarah Guerra at Pride parade waving a pride flag.

Sarah waving the flag to champion equality.

Proudly King’s as a network has helped me learn and discover so much about myself. Indeed, their support and community helped me ‘come out’ firstly to myself then to the wider world (in my late 40s!). Learning and understanding about my own sexual orientation has really changed my perspective on so many things that have happened through my life and built my confidence.

This year Proudly King’s has organised an LGBTQ+ History Month which focuses on trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming experiences. As part of this they will celebrate a trans trailblazer every day in February on twitter @ProudlyKings – do give them a follow as well as @kcldiversity if you don’t already.  Proudly is also putting on a fantastic range of events for the whole King’s community.  I am really hoping I can make some! I would encourage everyone – whatever your sexual orientation or gender identity – to sign up to attend these.

A significant part of my job is to ensure that we as a university have all the right elements in place to recognise and fulfil our responsibility to ensure all staff and students feel safe. We have a particular responsibility to ensure those that are often overlooked or misunderstood, like many of those who identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, are explicitly included and able to thrive. If you want to find out more about the breadth of work we do in relation to EDI at King’s check out our annual report.

Sarah Guerra and Proudly King's attend a pride celebration.

Sarah celebrating with members of our LGBTQ+ staff network Proudly King’s.

I have tried hard over the years to listen, understand and build empathy and compassion. This is my attempt to role model what I urge you all to do – actively practice allyship every day. Take a look at our LGBTQ+ Allyship toolkit which includes resources and advice on how to be a better ally to trans and non-binary people.

The toolkit contains lots of suggestions as to how to build and demonstrate your allyship. That could be by attending one of the events mentioned above or by booking into a Trans Matters training session. Just as important is to hold yourself accountable and encourage others to become better allies. One way is to make a pledge today via Proudly’s Allyship Campaign.

So, I will end with asking you, dear reader, how will you celebrate LGBTQ+ History month and how will you be a better ally to the to the LGBTQ+ community this February?

Sarah Guerra

Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

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