Strath Union is developing new policies addressing gender-based violence

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By Yousuf Khursheed

Strath Union is currently developing a gender-based violence policy as part of plans to change the wider culture at Strathclyde.

The policies are getting developed alongside more comprehensive training for staff and students on subjects like consent, being a bystander, and allyship. The Union is also hoping to address rape culture, provide better support for survivors of gender-based violence, and is hoping to encourage men especially to become allies.

While some of the work has been ongoing for a while, the importance of the project was amplified as major demonstrations regarding womens’ safety ensued across the UK, following Sarah Everard’s kidnap and murder last month. 

“Ending sexual and gender-based violence is not a challenge for survivors to overcome – rather, it’s a challenge for all of society to overcome,” said Rachel Cairns, current Vice President Inclusion at Strath Union. She added: “At around 50% of our population, men’s roles are just as vital in educating others, and going the extra mile to ensure the safety of those around them.

“Ally is an active word, and a call to action. To be an ally means to listen to the voices of survivors, to reflect on your own unconscious biases, to engage in conversations about how we make our communities safer, and maybe even adjust your own behaviours.“

In November last year, in light of the international 16 Days of Action against gender-based violence movement, Cairns set up the “Let’s Disclose it” campaign to demand clear reporting pathways, campaign against non-disclosure and “silencing agreements”, and encourage people to disclose their experiences with gender-based and sexual violence wherever they can. 

“At the moment, a power of work is being done to shift the culture at Strathclyde,” Cairns explained. She added: “I’ve been working on eradicating the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in cases of sexual misconduct. NDAs are practically unenforceable, and when they are used, they are used to silence survivors and enable perpetrators. I’ve been working with the University to end their use at Strathclyde and should hopefully have some exciting announcements about this soon.”

The University of Strathclyde has an on campus drop-in service from Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis. This service has been made available through text and WhatsApp during lockdown. 

Strath Union has also put together a page of potential resources, including contacts for support services. The support page includes the Union’s safe taxis scheme, the zero tolerance to sexual assault and harassment policy, as well as information about any upcoming sessions covering allyship, consent, or bystander training. 

Anyone seeking assistance or guidance after experiencing sexual assault is urged to contact Strath Union for assistance and signposting to services.

Other resources are:

Strath Union Sexual Assault/Harassment Support:

Strathclyde Report & Support:

Rape Crisis Scotland

The Rosey Project

Women’s Aid

The Emily Test