A drive to tackle sexual violence on campus started by Brunel is being flagged up across Europe as a model campaign to combat violence against women.
The scheme trains staff who work in bars, security and halls – who could be the first person victims tell about sexual assault – how best to help when it happens.
USVreact (Universities Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence) has trained 80 staff in 25 universities in the UK, Italy, Spain and Greece to handle sexual assault or harassment claims.
Now the European Commission is spotlighting the scheme as it showcases projects it has funded to combat violence against women – an issue it says is ‘endemic’ across Europe.
“This is really exciting,” said Brunel’s Dr Pam Alldred, USVreact leader. It will spread the word about how universities must be ready and equipped to help students who experience sexual violence. UK universities recognise their role in promoting students’ welfare, but this differs in different parts of Europe.
"Hopefully, it will get more universities thinking about what support they can offer to individuals and what they can do to promote safety and equality.”
No. Non. Nein. is highlighting USVreact across its media channels. It is the Commission’s year-long push to get organisations to intensify their work to combat gender-related violence.
USVreact started in March 2016, even before Universities UK called for ‘behavioural and cultural change’ to tackle violence against women, harassment and hate crime. It is set to train about 80 more staff this term. The £1.1m EU co-funded project is based on 20 years of combined research from Sussex, York, Lancaster and Brunel Universities and on the experience of services for women facing violence. However Pam wants anyone disclosing sexual violence, harassment or hate crime – not only women – “…to be heard respectfully, supported properly and never made to feel it's their fault.”
“Sexual violence happens everywhere. Universities are no exception – but have a unique opportunity to tackle it through education” said Dr Alldred, a Reader in Education and Youth Studies. “It’s about taking an institution-wide approach and challenging the social norms that foster sexual violence, as well as the idea that it’s a private matter and shouldn’t be discussed or that a victim is to blame. Making sure everyone understands that it’s never a victim’s fault, and that we need to talk about power in relationships and sexual double standards will help meet the university’s equality goals.”
Find out about USVreact’s work at Brunel. Register for the training, at Brunel’s Staff Development website. The project will share its findings and offer training taster sessions at its London conference on November 9, 2017 in London. Register free here.
Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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