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Equally Safe in Universities & Colleges

Equally Safe in Universities and Colleges

Attending university or college should be an exciting time of growth and development in a young person’s life. Unfortunately, too many young people, and particularly young women, are affected by gender-based violence during their time in further and higher education. This can have far-reaching consequences in terms of mental health and wellbeing, making it difficult for survivors to fully engage with their studies and student life.

The past few years have seen an increasing awareness of gender-based violence (GBV) in university and college communities. The scale of the problem is significant: the NUS survey of 2000 students studying at UK universities in 2010 found that one in seven female students was a survivor of a serious sexual assault or serious physical violence, and that 68% had experienced sexual harassment on campus. GBV is a widespread societal issue, and universities and colleges are increasingly recognising that GBV affects students and staff.

Survivors of GBV have spoken out about their experiences at colleges and universities, highlighting that more needs to be done to tackle the cultural issues that can lead to GBV and to ensure that when survivors do seek help that they get a consistent and supportive response. Survivors, student activists and academics alike have commented that institutions’ policies and procedures need to address GBV specifically, and that staff should be trained in how best to respond to disclosures.

The Equally Safe in Higher Education (ESHE) toolkit, developed at Strathclyde University and launched in 2018, is a multidisciplinary piece of work which takes a whole campus approach to GBV. The toolkit has a range of research tools which measure prevalence and incidence of GBV on campus and identify the key issues for staff and students. It guides institutions to develop policies and protocols which are comprehensive and trauma-informed, and provides suggestions for staff training, student engagement and support for survivors to ensure a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach to tackling GBV.

Rape Crisis Scotland has a new post, funded by the Scottish Government, to help address GBV in further and higher education. This post will work with local rape crisis centres and other GBV organisations to build their capacity to support colleges and universities, particularly in relation to staff training, student education and provision of support. Working in liaison with the ESHE team at the University of Strathclyde, we will play a key role in ensuring that approaches to GBV at universities and colleges are survivor-led, trauma-informed and draw upon the expertise of local GBV organisations.

Over the next two years we’ll be working with staff and students at colleges and universities to trial approaches to working together. If you’re interested in discussing further, please get in touch with Lauren O’Rourke, Training and Education Coordinator for Further and Higher Education, at lauren.o’rourke@rapecrisisscotland.org.uk

What Students Say About Our Approach:

“I really liked learning how to act in bystander situations correctly. Also this course has made me more aware on this issue, therefore I hope I’ll be able to help more.”

“[I liked] being able to discuss such sensitive topics (that could potentially be extremely challenging) with complete strangers and yet feel 100% comfortable.”

“I learned a lot about what support was available to survivors through the university or outwith. Also was so interesting to know the legal processes.”

“I liked working with like-minded individuals on an important (and at times difficult) topic; it’s been great to have open conversations.”

“The set out for the training was really well done and everyone was respectful and nice. I felt we all had opportunities to voice opinions etc, and it was a safe and open environment.”

What Staff Say About Our Training:

“Very informative and great opportunity for discussion and reflection.”

“Great trainers – very concise, clear and educated in the subject.”

“Enjoyed the session, well presented by knowledgeable facilitators.”

“Really informative session with a good mix of practical and theoretical information.”