OUSA Student Support has dealt with eight cases of flatmate violence reported by students so far this year.
Acting Manager of OUSA Student Support Hahna Briggs said that flatmate violence is “basically any behaviour where the purpose is to gain power and control over a flatmate,” and can be psychological, sexual, physical or financial.
Student Support offers lots of help to students reporting flatmate violence. Hahna said they discuss whether a conflict resolution and mediation process could help the situation, but acknowledged this option “really depends on the context; on many occasions the behaviour is well beyond trying to have a reasonable conversation”.
She said Student Support would also look at whether students can end their tenancies early. “If the student does decide to move out we can help them find a new flat, including communicating with StudyLink to receive financial help to pay the bond and rent in advance (this is a recoverable payment).”
Student Support will also help students write a safety plan that has options if they feel unsafe and need to leave quickly. “Living in such stressful environments can begin to impact academic studies.” Hahna said that Student Support can help with applying for extensions on assessment or deferrals on postgraduate study.
Student Support can also help students make a complaint to the Proctor or Police and can go to any meetings they have to attend as a support person.
“With regards to sexual violence, if the student prefers, we can assist them to receive support from Te Whare Tāwharau (sexual violence and prevention centre on campus) or Rape Crisis Dunedin”, said Hahna.
University of Otago Campus Constable John Woodhouse said he hasn’t seen an increase in violence between flatmates this year “per se” but said “it is worth noting that many young people are flatting in situations which also involve an intimate partner” which can be “complex situations”.
He advised students to “make sure you’re flatting with others you know and trust if possible” to prevent the stress of someone having to move out.
“Please remember, if you experience violence within a flatting situation, whether from a flatmate or an intimate partner, this is not okay. These matters should be reported to police immediately, and the matter will be dealt with appropriately and in a timely manner to keep our student community safe,” said Woodhouse.