Brunel University hopes to tackle the issue of rape on university campuses in response to the rise of sexist 'lad' and harassment culture.
The Uxbridge -based university won a €1.1million cash injection so Youth Studies researcher Dr Pam Alldred can 'meet the gap' in how universities respond to rape.
The researcher was awarded the grant from the European Union’s Justice Programme to develop new training for university staff on how to respond to sexual violence experienced by students - the largest grant awarded in this round of funding.
In October, the National Union of Students (NUS) published research called “That’s what she said”, which revealed that 50% of study participants identified "prevailing sexism, 'laddism' and a culture of harassment" at their universities.
As reports of sexual violence on campus rise, so have reports of the gap in responsive and sensitive student services and the urgency for Universities to respond to this.
Ali Miliani, Union of Brunel Students President, said: "Sexual violence on university campuses has become an increasingly prevalent issue, not because of a massive spike in incidents, but rather because we are turning a corner in having frank and productive conversations around the topic.
“This is why the Union of Brunel Students is thrilled that Dr Pam Alldred has been successful in her bid to develop and pilot a training scheme for university staff.
“Training on how to be effective first responders to reported cases is invaluable and we look forward to supporting Dr Alldred in the best way we can."
'Issues that need to be challenged'
This is where the ‘Universities Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence (USVSV): Training for Sustainable Student Services’ comes in.
The project team will design, develop and pilot training for university staff to be effective 'first responders' to reports of sexual violence by their students.
Security, bar and refectory staff, accommodation and counselling services will all be included and it will become part of a University’s staff development, so that they are trained to respond sensitively and effectively to a student reporting a sexual offence.
Dr Ruth Caleb, Chair of Universities UK’s mental wellbeing working group and Head of Counselling at Brunel University London supports the research.
She said: “All universities have a responsibility to understand that sexual harassment and violence are issues that need to be challenged, and that excellent training is required for university staff to support and respond to a student disclosing such abuse.
“I am delighted that Dr Alldred has been successful in her bid to design, develop and pilot training for university staff to be effective 'first responders' to reports of sexual violence by their students and I am looking forward to working with her on this crucial initiative.”
Brunel and Sussex University will lead a review of research on best practice in first responder support and referral and report to partners.
Then each of the seven European partner universities in Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK will design a training programme appropriate for their country and context informed by the report.
These will be piloted in 14 universities for this research.
While in the UK, the Duty of Care expected of universities and statements by the Director of Public Prosecutions place this project on a secure footing, in the partner countries, this support cannot be assumed.
The Italian, Spanish and Greek project partners are expecting to face more difficulty in raising a relatively taboo topic and embedding this training in universities.
Fourteen universities are collaborating in the project, six of them in the UK with a final aim is to share good practice and policy across UK and EU universities.