Preventing Sexual Harassment and Abuse at the University of the West of England
By Dr Jane Meyrick
How are we taking a ‘whole university’ approach to sexual violence and abuse at the University of the West of England (UWE) through prevention, support, and intervention?
We (myself, Prof Kieran McCartan, Dr Zoe Thomas) have worked across the University and local community agencies, keeping student and victim/survivors voice central through the Students Union at UWE and local sexual violence services. Key to our success is support from UWE’s the senior leadership team and Deputy Vice Chancellor, Jane Harrington and the Joint Forum Against Sexual Violence and Harassment.
At UWE we want to prevent sexual violence and abuse before it starts through our climate changing social norms campaign, #SpeakUp and evidence based bystander training for students to both recognise problem behaviour and step in if appropriate. We also frame this work clearly within the wider societal gender stereotypes that may drive harassment and abuse. We want to build a campus where such behaviour is not tolerated. We have worked closely with city-wide Bristol Zero Tolerance whose goal is to tackle gender-based violence. We have also introduced an early intervention programme called Positive Behaviour’s for individuals to turn around behaviour that may be of concern but has not yet been reported.
We want to create an environment that supports and increases the level of reporting and have introduced a clear central web based Report and Support tool. We know that sexual assault and harassment is both common throughout society and hugely under reported. Our University hopes this will create an environment where people feel safe to tell us about sexual harassment and violence and an increase in reports will be a clear indicator of success though culture change. We have been ahead of the game in making sure we meet the national standards around what Universities should be doing.
We want to get an accurate picture of the problem for both students and staff through an anonymous survey of rates that also maps the reporting gap, to get a handle on what we don’t know. This Campus Climate Survey goes live on March 18th 2019 and maps the pattern of commonly held rape myths across students and staff in order to pin point where we need to target our efforts to change perceptions around this topic.
We still have a long way to go and the Campus Climate Survey will inform a review of staff training needs across UWE and look at internal policies and procedures to better support those who do report. We also want to involve UWE’s built environment and estates/accommodation staff to ensure student and staff feel safe wherever they are on campus. The Students Union at UWE has done great work with Bristol’s night time economy to address behaviour for students in ‘Late Night Do it Right’.
This work is truly a collaboration and the whole university approach taken recognises the role UWE plays in Bristol as a community but also our global role as part of society.