In order to make university campuses perpetrator unfriendly, Professor Graham Towl from our Psychology Department suggests some of the positive steps universities can take to tackle sexual violence.
Sexual violence rates at universities, for women in particular, are the very highest in society, according to Office for National Statistics data. Students arrive at university and find themselves in a new environment and usually living away from home and familiar social contacts.
So, it really is not good enough simply to declare that sexual violence happens everywhere and calmly relinquish responsibility for it, far from it. Investment in support and prevention is desperately needed and often lacking. What does “taking sexual violence very seriously” look like at universities in policy and practice? I ask this question because this is often the institutional claim made in the event of things going wrong. Below are a set of ideas for positive change that we can act on now and not wait until there is institutional criticism and poorly treated victims.
By talking about our work on student safety, including our problem with sexual violence, to prospective students on open days we may contribute to creating a culture of transparency whereby reporting is the norm. This will not only aid those needing support and help them to get it but also may deter prospective perpetrators whose modus operandi is often predicated upon “not getting caught”. Balance of probability evidence gives victims and survivors more chance of getting justice than through the courts but does not preclude subsequent court action. In short, we need to make universities perpetrator-unfriendly environments, and thereby boost our contribution to tackling sexual violence more broadly.
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