Equally Safe

New Toolkit To Help Reduce Violence Against Women

March 17, 2016 by 1 Comment

Kevin Pilkington, Roisin McGoldrick, Gerry McDonnell, Melanie McCarry, Anni Donaldson and Raj Jeyeraj; Strathclyde HEI Toolkit launch

Tackling ‘Lad Culture’ on campus

By Anni Donaldson

The Scottish Government’s recent announcement of support for a project aimed at preventing gender-based violence at Strathclyde University is part of a growing national and international trend which began in the US and is now spreading across Scotland and the UK. Students and staff in our universities are no more immune to domestic abuse, rape, sexual violence and harassment and other forms of violence against women than those in the general population. Incorporating Scotland’s universities into Scotland’s long term aim of eliminating violence against women is an idea whose time has come.

The issue has attracted considerable attention in the US with some high profile cases of sexual violence on campuses there. This was recently showcased in the Oscar Nominated documentary The Hunting Ground and Lady Gaga’s appearance at the recent Oscars with a group of sexual violence survivors performing ‘Till it happens to you’ from the film’s soundtrack was a powerful reminder of the impact of sexual violence.

Nationwide research carried out by the UK National Union of Students reported in Hidden Marks, and “That’s what she said” identified some unsavoury campus trends, a distinct and raunchy ‘lad culture’ based around the objectification of women and

‘…a masculinity expressed through drinking to excess, playing certain ‘manly’ sports, and engaging in politically incorrect ‘banter’– exemplified by websites such as UniLad and The Lad Bible.’

The NUS were clear that in the social side of University life sexist, misogynistic and homophobic “banter” is increasingly commonplace and has been described by Laura Bates, founder of the ‘Everyday Sexism’ campaign, and others as a blatant misogyny facing women students.

Statistics show that stalking, harassment, sexual assault and domestic abuse are significant issues facing Scottish women today and college age women are no exception, with 1 in 4 reporting unwanted sexual behaviour during their studies. It is acknowledged that while gender-based violence mostly affects women and that men are the main perpetrators, it may impact individuals of any gender or sexual orientation. Scotland’s Equality Network has also found evidence of a culture of prejudice and homophobic bullying and crossover between domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault and homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as forms of gender based violence affecting the lives of LGBTI students and young people.

Recognising their responsibilities towards women on campus, the Athena Swan Charter Awards have, since 2005 been involved in a major drive to advance the careers of women in employment in higher education and research across all Scottish and UK universities. The Charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly and is beginning to join the dots regarding the need for a safe and supportive study and working environment for women.

This innovative and timely campus-wide project based in the School of Social Work and Social Policy will work with Strathclyde University students, staff and their representatives on measures to prevent violence against women. The project will raise awareness across the campus community of all forms of gender-based violence and provide sources of information and support for those affected. As a city centre campus, the project team at Strathclyde acknowledges that sexual violence and harassment may occur in and around university premises, particularly in clubs and bars nearby. The Project will work with senior University managers, USSA (Strathclyde University Students Association), Police Scotland, external partners and Glasgow City officials to maintain a safe campus environment for all staff, students and visitors.

The project plans to carry out campus-based surveys and develop a new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). This exciting free online course will reflect current national and international research findings in the field of gender-based violence and will also be available free to the general public. The project will also be looking at ways to expand the coverage of gender-based violence in social work, education and other professional degree programmes. These developments will make sure that university courses keep up with changes in law and policy, on domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault and other forms of violence against women and prepare future professionals working with those affected. The project team will be finding out what is going on in other Scottish universities and colleges, aims to collaborate closely with colleagues across the education sector and also with outside experts in the field. These new partnerships will help build a critical mass of good practice to be shared across all of Scotland’s higher and further education sectors.

This exciting project will ensure the University of Strathclyde makes a significant contribution to Equally Safe, Scotland’s progressive national approach to the long term prevention and elimination of violence against women.

Universities educate and train the next generation of young people who will go on to shape Scotland’s future. If they can learn and socialise in a campus environment where there is zero tolerance of gender-based violence, the whole of society can only benefit in the long term.

Anni Donaldson, Honorary Research Fellow, School of Social Work & Social Policy, University of Strathclyde

Blog: www.glasgowanni.com Twitter: @AnniDonaldson