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All college and university staff given new resource to help them support victims of gender based violence

Image credit: Drouet family/NUS Scotland

All college and university staff given new resource to help them support victims of gender based violence

A new resource to help staff support victims of gender based violence has been introduced in all Scottish colleges and universities.

The project has seen more than 100,000 cards distributed to every college and university detailing specialist services so that staff can deal with disclosures of violence against women and girls.

The idea for the cards came from Fiona Drouet, mother of Emily Drouet, who took her own life after experiencing a campaign of gender based violence whilst at university.

The cards – which fit into purses, wallets and staff ID badges - recognise that any one of the 75,000 staff working in universities and colleges may receive a disclosure of gender based violence or witness something, but not everyone will know what to do.

It is hoped that awareness of the cards in college and university will encourage victims of gender based violence to disclose their experience to someone they feel comfortable speaking to, knowing that they will be believed and receive the right support.

The cards offer the basic information needed to quickly refer someone experiencing any form of gender based violence to specialist services.

Many colleges and universities have customised their cards to include details of the support services available on campus.

Fiona Drouet, founder of the #EmilyTest Campaign, said: “I hope the support cards will help to bridge gaps and, if used effectively, have the potential to save lives.

“This is a positive step towards safeguarding students and staff alike.

“While many students will hopefully benefit from the increased awareness this new tool provides, staff are currently vulnerable to receiving disclosures with the absence of appropriate training.

“I believe this practical tool will give staff something powerful to offer to students needing urgent help and support. The aim of the card is not a solution or a fix all, but to empower staff when handling a disclosure.”

She added:  “These cards have come too late for Emily, but we hope staff will embrace this resource by keeping it on their person at all times and never underestimating the difference it could make to someone's life.” 

Speaking at the launch at Edinburgh Napier University, Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “Tackling violence against women and girls and the attitudes that help perpetuate it are key priorities for the Scottish Government.

“It’s vital that we work with universities and colleges to ensure they are places where students are safe to live, study and research.

“The support cards launched today will empower university staff to support students and provide advice on where they can access help.

“This an important step towards fostering a culture that is clear in its condemnation of gender based violence and gives staff and students the confidence to report unacceptable behaviour.”

The cards were developed over the spring and summer with input from Fiona Drouet, NUS Scotland, staff and students at universities and colleges across Scotland, the representative bodies of colleges and universities and with guidance from women’s organisations and the Equally Safe Team at the University of Strathclyde.

NUS Scotland Women’s Officer, Shuwanna Aaron said: “It’s crucial staff and students alike, across Scotland, know where to go to report gender based violence, get support, and feel confident in doing so. We hope these cards will help do just that, and that in future they can be rolled-out to Scotland’s students too.

“This is a significant first step in the fight against gender-based violence on our campuses, but there’s much still to do – like providing effective prevention and intervention training, supporting survivors, mainstreaming gender equality in the curriculum, and much more.”

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