2020-04-14

All About Respect: Tackling Sexual Harm on Campus

Hear about the sector leading and inspirational work that The All About Respect Team at York St John University have been doing since they received HEFCE Catalyst funding in 2017. 

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Higher Education Discrimination and Harassment Conference

Sexual Harm on Campus

In recent years, a wealth of negative media coverage on how universities deal with allegations of sexual misconduct, alongside the Universities UK report on sexual harm on campus, has brought to the fore the need for universities to address the issue of sexual harm on campus.

Sexual harm appears to be a frequent experience for many students. Between 50% and 77% of students report experiencing sexual harassment, and between 7% and 42% of students report experiencing sexual assault. Few students report their experiences, and our own survey work suggests that students are concerned that their experiences would not be taken seriously or feeling too ashamed or embarrassed to report. As a result, experiencing sexual harm can relate to poor mental health and academic disengagement (e.g. NUS, 2010; Cambridge, 2014). As one student in our survey work reported:

I think there needs to be more of an awareness around campus. From experiencing rape during my second year as an undergraduate, I didn't know where to go. I didn't even know if I should go to the police or not. Years later I'm still suffering really bad with this after being diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

All About Respect

All About Respect aims to tackle the problem of sexual violence through research, campaigns, and training, and by working in collaboration with students, academic and support staff and external experts. In 2017 York St John University was awarded HEFCE Catalyst funding to develop a project to address sexual harm on campus. The project aimed to highlight the importance of healthy relationships, consent, and respect through open dialogue within the student community to strengthen sexual violence and harassment prevention.

Students work in collaboration with support staff and academic staff to determine the content of the primary prevention materials, designing the branding, and helping to develop the All About Respect training and campaigns. Students involved in the project are recruited from a range of disciplines across the arts and social science backgrounds. We employ student interns, student researchers and student content developers. The project now includes three core areas of activity; campaigns, research, and training.

Campaigns

Students involved in the project design campaigns focusing on raising awareness of sexual harm, healthy relationships and consent. Many of these campaigns have tied in with national and international campaign weeks, examples include Denim Day, White Ribbon Day and Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week. Campaign activities have included campus displays and posters, film nights, ARTivism competitions, spoken word events, hand stamps at the SU, open talks, and dance and theatre performances. Students take the lead on developing our materials and this ensures that the message is communicated in a student appropriate manner.

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Research

The first step in our project was to conduct research on the prevalence of sexual harm (sexual harassment, sexual assault and intimate partner violence) with our students, to ensure our campaign materials are fit for purpose with our student community. This research was led by our academic staff in collaboration with student researchers and to date has involved student surveys, staff surveys, and focus groups with students. The key findings from this research are shared on campus through posters, training, and awareness raising events.

Training

Training has been a key strand of our project work over the past three years. Our courses have been voluntary to attend, and students have shown motivation to get involved. The training delivered as part of the project has included:

1) Bystander Intervention training delivered directly by the project,

2) IDAS Champions training, which is delivered by our local domestic abuse charity,

3) Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence training which is delivered by our student support services to staff at the university, and

4) Consent training delivered directly by the project.

Community Outreach

Led by student reports of sexual harm out in the community, we have been funded by our local police commissioner to engage in community outreach. The aim is to raise awareness of sexual harm and support services with the general public in our home city of York. This involves posters and beer mats in our local pubs and clubs as well as ‘Tackling Sexual Harm in the Community’ training which is free to attend.

While many of the projects which received HEFCE funding in 2017 have now ended, All About Respect continues to be so successful and inspirational due to its collaborative nature. This enables us to continually develop new and engaging content both within the university and across the broader community.

Contact the All About Respect Team:

On Twitter:                  @YSJRespect

On Facebook:             @YSJAllAboutRespect

On Instagram:             @AllAboutRespectYSJ

By Email:                      allaboutrespect@yorksj.ac.uk

Visit our website:        https://allaboutrespectysj.wordpress.com/about/

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