Tuesday 30-04-2019 - 12:32
Robert Gordon University has put in place a system for students to report incidents of gender based violence (GBV), and have trained staff to support them, thanks to a campaign by the students’ union.
‘Speak Up, Speak Out,’ is a campaign that aimed to establish a clear reporting system, and to raise student awareness of zero tolerance for GBV and what to do if they became aware of issues. Adam Johnston is RGU Union’s President of Education and Welfare, but before he became a union officer he had tried to report an incident himself on behalf of another student. He found the advice he was given contradictory and confusing advice. During his election campaign, Adam surveyed over three hundred students, and found that less than ten had a clear understanding of how to report incidents.
“Student involvement was invaluable,” explains Adam. “During my run for Union, I spoke to hundreds of students who demonstrated their approval of the campaign and shared their own experiences. This showed how truly large scale the issue was, the amount of cases that have gone unreported, and the number of students going unsupported. That had to change.”
The students’ union met with the university early in the campaign, which led to both sides agreeing to work together and deliver ‘Speak Up, Speak Out,’ as a joint project.
As a result of this, the union was able to play a key role in designing and tailoring a specific online system for reporting GBV, which was launched in October 2018. Nineteen staff were also trained as GBV First Responders. Meanwhile, the union ran an awareness-raising plan, including social media posts and flags hung on lamp posts around campus. The campaign began with a launch event one month into the academic year, which featured Fiona Drouet who played a key role in developing Equally Safe in Higher Education. The launch also received national media coverage from the BBC's Radio Scotland and website.
Following the campaign’s launch, the union has again surveyed students to see what impact they’d had. In a complete turnaround, 70% of respondents said they would feel confident in reporting a case of GBV. Building on this success, further training sessions have been arranged for staff, and the feedback the system has received is being used to improve it. ‘Speak Up, Speak Out,’ has continued to go from strength to strength, and can offer a model for other students’ associations across Scotland in their efforts to tackle gender based violence.