Content Warning: This page contains mentions of sexual harassment, violence and abuse.
Sexual Harassment and Violence
Policy passed at NUS Scotland conference 2022.
What is the issue facing students?
Over the last 2 years, there has been an increase in awareness and conversations around sexual harassment and violence.
Reports from the last 10 years highlight that students, particularly those identifying as female, feel unsafe and experience gender-based violence both on Campus and in their wider communities
Reports from Hidden Marks (2010) found that “over two thirds of respondents to the survey had experienced some kind of verbal or non-verbal harassment in or around their institution”. It was also found that 89% of stalking perpetrators and 73% of physical violence perpetrators were male.
Moreover, it was found that survivors of GBV are unlikely to report the crime the police, with only 21% of stalking survivors being prepared to come forward.
Gender-based violence is a serious issue in FEI and HEI. Staff and Student Sexual Misconduct Report (Power in Academy, 2018) found that half of students have either experienced or know someone who has experienced sexual misconduct from a staff member of a higher education establishment.
Rape Crisis reported that 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some kind of sexual assault since the age of 16. We know that GBV is not a HEI exclusive issue, but we believe that institutions have a responsibility to protect the safety and bodily autonomy of all their students and staff.
Why is it important to us as a movement?
NUS has initiatives in place from the ongoing Violence, harassment, and consent campaign:
1. “ I heart consent” - educates students and the general public on how to foster conversations about consent.
2. “Consent matters” workshops – reviewed to maintain an up to date and inclusive curriculum on consent.
3. “Tackling harassment” (2020-2021) promotes information about how to take an active role in dismantling harassment and hate within HE settings.
Stirling University currently has the “Don’t be a stranger, be a friend!” module, which is a great tool to educate current students on preventative measures. Additionally, there are a multitude of resources that NUS provides which universities and colleges can use to educate all students and staff on matters on consent, preventative measures and support for those affected.
All universities and colleges in Scotland should have a module similar to ‘Don’t be a Stranger, be a Friend’ and other modules utilising the consent information from NUS in a visible and encouraged manner during university on boarding, and throughout the course.
What would the world look like if we changed it?
This will allow all students and apprentices the opportunity to help dismantle the social structures that allow for gender-based harassment and violence both within further and higher education and within the wider country.
It will show positive effects in tackling the culture that fosters sexual harassment and violence.
Ideas for implementation
Note from NUS Scotland Steering Committee: Once policy is passed our elected student officers use this to create a Plan for Action. The Plan for Action is what details what NUS Scotland does and how we win for students. Policy is about what we want to change and why. This proposal included specific actions for NUS Scotland to take on this matter and therefore should not be included as part of the proposal. As a steering committee we think this is still useful information to take to the NUS Scotland President for planning, however should not form part of the main proposal. We have therefore included the below 'ideas for implementation' section which does not form part of the main proposal but includes the suggested actions made by the propose
NUS Scotland should campaign for all Scottish Universities and colleges to commit to including the following:
1. Educational information about consent, Preventative measures for sexual harassment, sexual violence and gender-based violence,
2. Ways for students and apprentices to support those who have experienced sexual harassment, sexual violence or gender-based violence and services the universities provide for those who have experienced sexual harassment, sexual violence or gender-based violence,
3. as part of their on-boarding information for new students and returning students throughout their education.
NUS should encourage all Scottish universities and colleges to use existing programmes that align with the current NUS Violence, harassment and consent campaign and use these to create any additional materials needed to comply.
The information that is shared and encouraged should include;
1. conversation about consent,
2. ways to prevent gender-based harassment and violence,
3. ways to support those who have experienced sexual harassment or violence,
4. and up to date signposting to the services the university or college has for those who have experienced sexual harassment or violence.
5.This should be included as part of the university or colleges on boarding information when students first join the university as well as throughout their education.
6.The language used within the educational tools should be inclusive and all information should be regularly updated.
End the use of NDAs in case of sexual misconduct
Policy passed at NUS Scotland conference 2021.
What is the issue facing students?
Noted by NUS Scotland Conference: It is clear that sexual violence and abuse is a sector-wide problem within higher-education. 62% of students and graduates have experienced sexual assault at UK universities according to research from Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room in 2018. 70% of female students and recent graduates have experienced sexual assault, as well as 26% of male students, 61% of non-binary students, and 73% of disabled students. In addition, NUS found in 2019 that 75% of respondents to a survey on sexual violence reported having had unwanted sexual experiences at least once.
And yet, universities and colleges still use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in response to sexual violence. Universities UK say that using NDAs to keep victims quiet should not be tolerated - and yet, it continues to be tolerated. In 2019, BBC found that UK Universities have spent around £87 million in pay-offs with NDAs since 2017. Nearly a third of Universities have used NDAs in student grievance disputes since 2016. NDAs are often unenforceable by universities, and so we must understand that their purpose is to intimidate survivors into silence and to conceal and protect perpetrators of abuse, assault, and rape. By using NDAs, our institutions are enabling the actions of perpetrators and allowing cycles of abuse to continue.
As a movement, we aim to provide students a space to build communities to socialise and learn and work to protect and defend the rights of students. A fundamental part of these aims is ensuring that our students are safe to study at our institutions. We have a responsibility to ensure our students are not being silenced, and our universities aren’t working to actively protect perpetrators of sexual violence or harassment.
Stopping gagging orders from being used to manipulate the students we represent is not only important, but we believe it is also necessary, and a mandatory action towards ending gender-based and sexual violence on our campuses; it will force our institutions to be more transparent about their actions with regards to sexual misconduct within student grievance cases, and to stop enabling abusers. In addition, if we were able to make a legislative change around their use within our sector, we would also be setting a precedent for other sectors where this is a problem.
NUS Scotland Believes
- NDAs should not be used in cases of sexual misconduct in universities and colleges
- Universities and colleges should be transparent in their use of NDAs when reporting to relevant funding and policy-making bodies
Ideas for implementation:
- Make a statement against the use of NDAs in cases of sexual misconduct
- Lobby the UK and Scottish Parliaments for tangible legislation against the use of NDAs in cases of sexual misconduct
- Lobby candidates in future Parliamentary elections on the subject of stopping the use of NDAs in cases of sexual misconduct within universities & colleges
- Call on relevant funding and policy-making bodies to restrict Universities & Colleges use of NDAs within their KPIs