A trailblazing project to tackle harassment and sexual violence in Norwich, proposed jointly by the University and UEA Students’ Union, has just won funding from HEFCE.
The new ‘Student Community Safeguarding Partnership’ will focus on preventing harassment and sexual assault in Norwich, as well as responding effectively to any incidents that may occur.
UEA and UEA Students’ Union will use the funding from HEFCE to recruit two full time members of staff to lead the project. Tackling harassment and sexual violence is no longer an add-on job completed by volunteers, charities or part-time members of staff – and this new project will place UEA at the forefront of anti-harassment initiatives in Universities.
The staff will work with key organisations and individuals on UEA’s campus and in Norwich city. They’ll particularly focus the project on four key areas:
- Collaborating with Norwich organisations to implement a zero tolerance policy towards harassment and sexual violence – this includes working with NUA, City College Norwich, the police, local authority, transport companies (taxis, buses) and local venues to ensure that all students are safe in Norwich city, regardless of the time of day
- Working with UEA clubs and societies – to raise awareness of sexual harassment and supporting committees in dealing with any situations that so occur
- Tackling domestic violence in Halls of Residence – Senior Residents are often the first port of call for such incidents, and the project will provide them with training to spot patterns of abuse, and the resources to deal with the situation
- Ensuring all incidents are recorded and dealt with appropriately – particularly, that members of academic, University and SU staff receive adequate training, and that all cases are referred on to appropriate support organisations
How common is sexual violence among students?
In 2010, NUS completed the national ‘Hidden Marks’ report which showed that one in seven student respondents had experienced serious physical or sexual assault during their time at University. 68% of respondents reported that they had been subject to verbal or physical harassment on their university’s campus, and some experienced harassment on a daily basis.
NUS also discovered that over half of university students in the UK were not aware of the procedure to report sexual assault or harassment at their University. This meant that many incidents went unreported – leading to the normalisation of harassment and stigma around sexual violence.
This is unacceptable, and we were not going to stand for this on UEA’s campus.
Progress on UEA campus so far
In response to these findings, Universities UK formed a Taskforce to examine violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting University students. UEA’s Vice Chancellor, David Richardson, is one of the 15 members of the taskforce, sitting alongside student representatives and academic experts. Over the past few years, the taskforce has been collecting a significant volume of evidence from universities on the scale of these issues and the initiatives universities are using to both prevent incidents occurring and respond effectively when they do. They delivered their final report, ‘Changing the Culture’, in October 2016.
The SU has also been working tirelessly to tackle harassment on campus. From Joe Zilch’s (Activities and Opportunities Officer) #TakeAStand charter to Jo Swo’s (Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer) ‘Good Night Out’ campaign, the SU have been instrumental in educating students about sexual harassment and initiating an honest conversation about the incidences of sexual violence occurring on campus.
The Student Community Safeguarding Partnership will build on the findings of the UUK taskforce and the work of the SU.