Scottish Women’s Aid challenge colleges and universities to raise their standard in awareness of gender violence
STUDENTS who have experienced gender violence are being urged to seek support from NUS Scotland and Scottish Women's Aid (SWA) who are launching a campaign to increase awareness on campuses.
As part of the United Nation’s 16 days of action, which promotes international activism against gender violence, both organisations hope to prevent sexual crimes but also increase improve the avenues for reporting it.
Through their new helpline and visual campaign, colleges and universities are being asked to step up their requirements to make students aware of the support available from local Women’s Aid groups across Scotland.
Dr Marsha Scott of SWA said: “We’re excited to join forces with NUS Scotland – it’s absolutely important that students experiencing domestic abuse know that they are not alone, and it’s okay to ask for help and support.
“We’ve got better over the years at recognising physical violence as a real problem, but the way domestic abuse is experienced by women is so much more than hitting, and indeed physical violence may not feature at all – emotional, sexual and/or financial abuse in amongst intimidation and control are really common in domestic abuse.
“We know there are students who are experiencing domestic abuse, and we want to make sure that you know we are here for you too. University and colleges are often whirlwinds of new experiences, friendships and relationships. This is often exciting, but it can make finding someone to trust and talk to about potential abuse really tricky.”
This year SWA developed their national domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline which provides non-judgemental specialist support and advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0800 027 1234. NUS Scotland will be sending all member students' associations posters advertising the helpline number to put up on campuses across Scotland.
“It's important for everyone to know that the first step to support is only a free phone call away.” Angela Alexander
Across Scotland, NUS research has found almost one in five college and university students have experienced some sort of sexual harassment during their first week of term. Charities have stated that they were concerned that systems for reporting sexual harassment in colleges and universities are either lacking or not visible to students in a lot of cases.
They also cite Scottish Government figures for the last year showing 22,075 incidents of domestic abuse of women up to the age of 30, an 8.9 per cent rise from 20,283 in 2014. SWA have warned that since the recording of domestic abuse as an ‘incident’ does not take into account that domestic abuse is experienced by many women and children as a constant pattern of intimidation and control, there is a degree of underestimation in the figures.
“It’s absolutely important that students experiencing domestic abuse know that they are not alone, and it’s okay to ask for help and support.” Dr Marsha Scott
NUS Scotland women's officer Angela Alexander said: “Violence against women affects every corner of our society, and women students are just as likely to experience abuse at the hands of a partner as anyone else.
“In many cases, those experiencing violence or threatening behaviour may not know where to turn for help and support – and this is particularly the case for younger students. That's why NUS Scotland is joining forces with Scottish Women's Aid to mark the start of 16 Days of Action and highlight the fact that support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“It’s clear there is a need to reach out to more women and let them know help is available. During the 16 Days of Action, I will be encouraging our member students’ Associations to highlight the national domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline Scotland to their students. It's important for everyone to know that the first step to support is only a free phone call away.”
The United Nations’ 16 days of activism campaign to eradicate violence against women is taking place between 25 November and 10 December.
Picture courtesy of Caelie Frampton
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