Urgent action needed to tackle violence and abuse against women

The University is deeply committed to tackling all forms of violence and abuse and has been at the forefront of research and education for more than a decade. It’s innovative Understanding the Dynamics of Domestic and Sexual Violence degree, the first of its kind in the UK, trains the professionals working in society, while the University’s Bystander Intervention Programme has seen several hundreds of students trained to spot and intervene in matters of violence or harassment.

Dr Gill Harrop, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology, who runs the Bystander Intervention Programme, said: “Women are taught from a young age that it’s our responsibility to spot the risks and protect ourselves from harm, whether that means holding our keys between our fingers as we walk home, not walking alone in the dark, not drinking too much… The list of ‘don’ts’ goes on and on, and the upshot is that the blame ends up being placed firmly on women to keep ourselves safe, rather than on the perpetrators of the violence. The tragic case of Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home through Clapham Common on the 3rd March, highlighted this. It took only minutes after her disappearance was reported in the press for questions to appear online about why she was walking on her own at night, as if she was somehow to blame for what happened to her.

“The public outcry to Sarah’s case, and the rejection of the victim blaming surrounding it have sent a clear message: women and girls want to be safe from abuse or harassment, and stop the victim blaming. We need to shift the focus from the victim’s actions to instead look at the perpetrators’ behaviour and the violent actions that they chose to take. But of course, this cannot just be a women’s problem. It has to be raised and discussed by men as well, in order to acknowledge the problem, and commit to stepping up and speaking out against misogyny, violence and abuse. The responsibility is on all of us to call out problematic behaviour, not just those affected by it.”

The University is widely recognised as one of the most inclusive in the UK, having worked hard to provide a stimulating and safe environment for staff and students, where gender equality, disability, and mental health are top priorities. It’s work in tackling violence and abuse is widely recognised around the world and has informed policies and practice nationally and internationally.

The University was one of the first Institutions to introduce a Domestic Abuse, Sexual Violence and Stalking Policy that applies to staff and students and covers victims and perpetrators. The policy, along with the University’s over-arching commitment to equality and inclusion, has embedded a culture in which violence and abuse, of any scale, has become wholly unacceptable and there are a number of underlying and supportive initiatives regarding safeguarding of potentially vulnerable staff and students. Staff and students are regularly involved in promoting and supporting national campaigns to stop violence and abuse, such as the national 16 Days of Action Against Gender-based Violence.  

Dr Harrop added: “While the events of the last two weeks have highlighted the huge amount of work that still needs to be done to tackle the issue of violence against women and girls, we’re incredibly proud that the UW Bystander Intervention Programme can be part of this, and will continue to work towards a future that is free of violence and abuse.”

Read this blog post from Dr Harrop