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Hear no misogyny, speak no sexism, see no harassment. Gender-Based Violence and UK University Campus Culture: Time for Change?


Academic year: 2021

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This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA Open access copyright: This

publication may not be reproduced in part or full without prior permission of its author Di Turgoose

Turgoose, D. Hear no misogyny, speak no sexism, see no harassment. Gender-Based Violence and UK University Campus Culture: Time for Change? in Magalhães, M. J.; Guerreiro, A. and

Pontedeira, C (2019) (Eds) Sexual Violence ECDV Porto, University of Porto p114-120 Overview

Gender Based Violence (GBV) in UK Universities has begun to gain the attention of scholars, government, the media and universities themselves albeit decades later than other Anglophone countries such as New Zealand and the USA. Though the policy situation in the UK has historically contrasted with that in the USA, where there are national and institutional policies on sexual harassment and violence (see for example Feltes et al 2012) in recent years, UK universities have become more attuned to issues of GBV with a number providing information about what to do in the wake of an assault. It is also increasingly common for universities to signpost information about national and regional support services, such as help lines for victims of sexual assault. Awareness-raising campaigns and active bystander and ‘consent’ programmes have also begun emerging, and many university counselling services now include specialist support for victims of (predominantly) sexual violence.

In the UK the role of both student and academic activists (see for example NUS 2010 201, 2014 2015 and Phipps 2015) in bringing attention to GBV in universities and in holding universities to account for GBV amongst their staff and students has largely been the catalyst for the current changes. In summary 2016 saw the publication of the Changing the Culture document which established the Universities UK (UUK) taskforce with the remit of addressing GBV. This paper examines how GBV in universities in England in the UK is currently framed before exploring how universities are responding to increased expectations that they improve preventative measures and responses to GBV in their policies and practice. How these prevention interventions might shift campus cultures is particularly explored, with an emphasis on the Mandala Project at De Montfort University (DMU). Background to the Catalyst for Change

The backcloth to change in the UK commenced with the National Union of Students (NUS) 2010 quantitative research which revealed the high rates at which female students experience GBV, with 1:7 experiencing a serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student. The study also found lower perceptions of safety among students linked to concerns around university campus architectural design, for example poor lighting of alleyways etc. NUS follow up qualitative national research in 2013 revealed 12% of female students had been subject to stalking, over 2/3rds had



experienced some form of verbal or non-verbal harassment in or around university campus which included groping, flashing and unwanted sexual comments, and that over 60% of female students had heard rape ‘jokes’ on site. Students reported that (so called) lad culture*, alongside supporting sexist ideas, also endorsed a range of discriminatory views including classism, racism, LGBT phobia and ableism in the name of a joke, or ‘banter’. This echoes research findings regarding homophobia both previously (Muir and Seitz 2004) and currently, in our own civic values research at DMU (Turgoose & Bettinson 2017) which is discussed below.

Data Collection and Methodology

The NUS national 2013 research utilised focus groups as a data collection method and claimed its results were generalizable (N=40 students). At DMU in 2016 we obtained ethical approval to replicate this study on our campus, also utilising focus groups under the banner of a civic values research project (before the set-up of the UUK task force) with N=27 students. We found similarly that (so called) lad culture negatively impacted on university student life, with such behaviour prevalent in sports teams, nights out, and through the selling of certain media. Our civic values research is proving to be pivotal in shaping understanding of GBV on campus for us at DMU and is assisting us in considering the usefulness of the term lad culture amongst which strategies are likely to be most effective in addressing GBV.

Policy and Practice Frameworks

Universities have obligations under both the Public-Sector Equality Duty (part of the Equality Act 2010) and Human Rights Act (1998) to respond to GBV (EVAW 2015). Namely the Equality Duty requires public authorities to hold due regard to eliminating discrimination and harassment in addition to advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between different groups. Bullying, harassment and dignity at work policies at DMU highlight the values within equality and diversity policy. In addition, the Human Rights Act makes it unlawful for any public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a right included in the European Convention of Human Rights. That said, guidelines (from 1994 known as the Zellick report) predating both pieces of legislation at universities regarding misconduct outlined how universities should handle reports of sexual violence with perhaps the most contentious and widely adopted of these being universities take no internal action unless victims were willing to go through a formal police investigation, and that any such internal action was delayed until juridical proceedings were complete** Following NUS 2015 the need for improvement in procedures for dealing with complaints, incidents and disciplinary procedures to adequately address GBV was identified as a priority by the newly established UUK taskforce. Subsequent revisions to the Zellick guidelines means universities can now take precautionary action during criminal justice proceedings and could still take disciplinary action if a student accused of an offence was acquitted in court (Bradfield 2016). In summary then The UUK Taskforce’s emergence has marked a significant



shift in the regulatory framework governing universities response to GBV, acknowledging it as a critical issue and part of a national agenda. A significant UUK taskforce recommendation is that universities adopt centralised reporting procedures and develop effective disclosure responses. This maps to some of the work of the Mandala project at DMU and is discussed next.

DMU: The Mandala Project

DMU is an urban city campus-based post 1992 University. DMU has a diverse cohort of approximately 26,000 students who largely reflect the local community demographic of Leicester City where we are located. It is different to many European counterparts (European report 2011) in terms of having students living on campus throughout their study but does have similarities to some (for example Spain, see Valls et al 2016). Universities are thus it can be argued ‘at risk’ communities where campus life whilst not causing GBV impacts upon the way GBV manifests.

In line with the Public and Common Good ethos of DMU the Mandala corporate project supports an ongoing programme of work specifically seeking to eradicate and challenge GBV. The project is a result of collaboration between Welfare Services and the Student Union with input from DMU’s SVDV Research Network which I co-convene alongside my fellow academic colleague Vanessa Bettinson. Actions and activities developed to date via Mandala include training to tackle GBV, developing an anonymous first point of contact to report an incident of GBV and measures to incorporate the student voice which includes incorporating safety measures in campus building development at DMU.

The importance of having a contact point where anonymous reports of GBV can be made has long been recognised largely in USA research (see Grauerholz, et al. 1999; Pasky-MacMahon 2008) alongside (again mainly USA for example see Cantalupo 2011) studies revealing training is vital in helping staff to feel more confident and respond effectively to students who disclose to them so they receive an appropriately supportive response. This is of particular note since UK students tend to disclose GBV to staff much more often than their European counterparts (European Report 2011).

Mandala at DMU has over twenty trauma informed trained ‘First Responder’ staff who can meet with students (and staff) who report GBV to the Project. The First Responder remit is to listen non-judgementally and to signpost to sources of support both within and outside of the university (including the police) with regard both specialist and non-specialist service provision. Referrals include both recent and historic domestic and sexual violence, harassment and other forms of GBV. Power and control make it difficult for survivors to speak out/disclose which can serve to intensify feelings of disempowerment and produce long-term negative outcomes for example anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and this is recognised by First Responders.

The fact that the Mandala project is promoted at faculty induction level at DMU is good practice. Less than a quarter of universities had done this previously (NUS 2015). There are moves next academic



year for Mandala to be included in pre-induction materials before students arrive on campus for welcome weekend. DMU’s GBV prevention strategy focuses positively on the promotion of healthy relationships and in engaging students in critical debate around issues. For example a campaign based on the question ‘Is it OK for my boyfriend/girlfriend to look through my phone?’ was launched during Fresher’s induction week as induction week is a known hot spot for GBV given many students move away from home for the first time and are ‘at risk’/vulnerable (see NUS 2010; 2013; 2015; Turgoose and Bettinson 2017; Bates (2012). Students vote ‘yes, no or maybe’ to the is it OK statement and discuss their personal rationale with Mandala staff. This strategy is an engaging way for students to consider issues such as coercive control within relationships, online privacy and for providing information about support if required.

Only 6% of student unions had reported that university policies were visible on their websites (NUS 2015). Mandala has developed a range of information pages for students to access on line on various technology and social media platforms which link to various contact points, videos and information. These advances link to our findings that student policies were invisible or too dry to buy into or understand. Our students suggested videos to explain visually and this is being actioned (Turgoose and Bettinson 2017)

A key aspect of the Mandala project is co-production, an example of which is training currently under development for DMU Sports and Clubs following ‘banter’ and appropriate behaviour within sport being outlined in the NUS (2013, 2014, 2015) research, Changing the Culture (2016) and our civic values research findings at DMU (Turgoose and Bettinson 2017). At DMU rather than a hectoring compulsory approach the emphasis is to develop and deliver training programmes within teams themselves via a ‘train the trainer’ approach. Whilst labour intensive (and in the early stages of development) the sense of self-ownership and autonomy this approach seeks to foster and its participative nature (based on the idea nothing about us without us) aims to best encourage the genuine cultural shift over time which is required. This means that an evidence base can now be developed with regards how successful such workshops are in terms of changing attitudes and behaviours and in preventing GBV. Initial pilot train the trainer evaluations sessions report over 90% of attendees were more confident to talk to others after training.

At DMU it is acknowledged that programmes will have limited effect on campus culture if they fail to raise awareness of the problem (Hayes and Smith 2010), if students can dismiss what they have learned as applicable only to ‘others (ibid)’, if programmes are based on common sense and not well grounded in theory (McMahon & Banyard (2012) or if they have been developed without much research being done on how students understand sex and how they understand and negotiate consent (Jazkowski, & Peterson 2013).



Universities are working on better policies, protocols and services aimed at addressing so called ‘lad culture’ and GBV.Whilst policies provide a formal framework to tackle this and therefore represent an important step in this process they should not be seen as a panacea, otherwise a job done delusion is likely to prevail in just having a policy. We are keeping a watchful eye of how our policies function at DMU and we acknowledge our duty of care and responsibilities for preventing GBV via the Mandala Project which itself seeks to create a positive university culture embodying strong civic values. Attention to design and architecture in promoting spaces free of discrimination and how physical campus space is designed has assisted in this endeavour. For example, campus incorporated design which meets urban feminist principles in making buildings more accessible/making people feel safer, where students can participate fully in university life without harassment as proposed by those such as Darke (1984) has been adopted at DMU.

Greater inclusion of students in institutional processes positioning them as agents of social change rather than as passive victims needs further implementation with regard to protection, especially in emotional terms. The Mandala Student Champion role which seeks to create a team of student activists to ensure the student voice remains at the centre of the project has been and will be continued to be developed.

Whilst ‘lad culture’ is a much researched much debated concept (see for example Sundaram and Jackson 2015; Ridolfi-Star 2016; Rudd and Goodson 2017; Phipps 2016) it is not helpful analytically given a myriad of behaviours are involved in what constitutes it. ‘Lad culture’ is under theorised and as such the evidence base for prevention has to date been thin. There has also been a lack of

intersectionality with the white, female, heterosexual, middle class, able bodied student victim borne out in research to date. Moreover, the current university approach in England has largely been based psychologically, personally, punitively and viewed via a positivistic lens. A more nuanced approach is required to frame the debate structurally. To this end the use of the Personal Cultural Structural (PCS) Model (Thompson 2015) and complexity theory (Patton 2011) is of relevance and worthy of consideration in building a theoretically informed evidence base and in understanding the limitations of the interventions we have pursued thus far, as in the case of Crocker (2018). GBV is a complicated problem. Complex problems present as ‘fluid and unpredictable’ and because they are non-linear, they require innovative responses and creative methods to uncover patterns (Snowden & Boone 2007; Patton 2011).

*lad culture is defined by students primarily as a group or ‘pack’ mentality residing in activities such as sport, heavy alcohol consumption and ‘banter’ which was often sexist, misogynistic, or

homophobic and was thought to be sexualized and to involve the objectification of women. At its extreme, it was thought to promote rape supportive attitudes, sexual harassment and violence, first highlighted within NUS’s (2010) Hidden Marks’ report.



**18 months is the usual timeframe for a rape trial in our jurisdiction (CPS 2017)


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