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University of Sussex conference discusses importance of supporting sexual violence survivors

The University of Sussex has hosted a conference, led by Professor of Gender Studies Alison Phipps, to improve support for victims of sexual violence.

The conference was the final local event of the two-year EU-funded project, Universities Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence (USVSV), co-led by Professor Phipps and Dr Pam Alldred of Brunel University London, which has developed, delivered and evaluated disclosure training to university staff across six European countries.

Seventy-five conference delegates, including teachers, local authority staff, youth workers, police officers and representatives of local charities, heard on Wednesday (17 January) how Sussex and Brighton universities are working to foster awareness and understanding around sexual violence and improve the avenues through which students can report their experiences.

The event was co-sponsored by Brighton and Hove City Council and local rape crisis centre Survivors’ Network.

Survivors director Fabia Bates, who chaired a panel discussion featuring the vice-chancellors of both Brighton and Sussex universities, praised the University for the seriousness and commitment it had shown in attempting to tackle the issue.

Delegates also heard details of a survey carried out at Sussex as part of the research project and delivered by Dr Naaz Rashid (Media and Cultural Studies) and Dr Valentina Cartei (Psychology) which had responses from more than 300 students discussing their experiences of disclosure, expectations of support and thoughts on the culture of the university.

This data shaped the development of staff training around responding to disclosures which was delivered to 112 members of staff at Sussex and 40 at Brighton.

A one-hour video version of the training will soon go online for all Sussex staff to access.

Key recommendations from the project included clear communication of policies and care pathways, provision of institutional support for staff, consistency across departments and a need for suitable private spaces where students could feel comfortable should they wish to make disclosures.

Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell said the University was making substantial progress on the recommendations already.

He said: “I absolutely endorse all the recommendations from the project and most of them are already in train. But we must do more, we want to ensure that there is more  and longer-term support in place. We know that sexual violence is a much wider and endemic problem than what is reported.”

The £1 million USVSV project is now coming to an end, having delivered training to almost 900 members of staff at 24 institutions in Greece, Italy, Latvia, Serbia, Spain and the UK.

Professor Phipps said: “When we first started the project, disclosure training was not provided by many universities and there was a real need for it. We wanted to raise awareness among as many staff as possible because you don’t know how a disclosure might be made, it could be to the first person someone walks up to in the library. We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved.”

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Posted on behalf of: Centre for Gender Studies
Last updated: Friday, 19 January 2018

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