Scottish universities to help students facing domestic abuse

Published

Credit: Flickr

Credit: Flickr

Charlene Shillan
Writer

Scottish Women’s Aid and NUS Scotland have united to urge students facing domestic abuse to seek support. Marking the 16 Days of Action campaign, the organisations have teamed up to raise awareness of the rising numbers of Scottish women under the age of 30 being domestically abused.

While overall reports of domestic abuse have decreased from 59,882 in 2014/15 to 58,104 in 2015/16; for women under 30 they have seen an 8.9% rise. In response to this, universities and colleges are being urged to open a dialogue about the support available to students.

This partnership intends to educate students nationwide on the 24 hour safe services available to them through the National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage helpline. Numbers for the service, along with the men’s advice helpline, will be distributed on campuses throughout Scotland. NUS Scotland Women’s Officer, Angela Alexander said: “It’s important for everyone to know that the first step to support is only a free phone call away.”

With one in five students experiencing some form of sexual harassment within the first week of term alone, there has been a number of projects emerging to combat student harassment. Glasgow University’s Let’s Talk initiative launched last year to generate a more efficient communication channel for the reporting of sexual assault and provision of resources for survivors. However, such systems are often found to be lacking in presence or visibility in a lot of institutions.

Nonetheless, progress is being made: with the University of Strathclyde receiving funding from the Scottish Government to enable the development of a violence against women toolkit and Glasgow Caledonian University setting up a strategy group to develop a response to violence against women and hate crime affecting students.

Action has been taken at the University of Glasgow to equip students with the skills to be trainers preventing and discussing sexual violence from the combined efforts of The Students’ Association, Glasgow University’s Students’ Representative Council and Rape Crisis Scotland. Campaigns, such as the NUS and Women’s Aid coalition, hope to promote such responses to domestic abuse.

Marsha Scott of Scottish Women’s Aid explained the reasons for this focus, stating: “We know there are students who are experiencing domestic abuse, and we want to make sure that you know we are here for you too. University and colleges are often whirlwinds of new experiences, friendships and relationships. This is often exciting, but it can make finding someone to trust and talk to about potential abuse really tricky. The National Forced Marriage and Domestic Abuse helpline is somewhere that will listen, support and talk with you about yourself or someone you are worried about 24 hours 7 days a week.”

By illuminating such resources, the campaign hopes to alert students in abusive situations to the help available to them – whether it is a discussion or an intervention. NUS Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid are taking these steps to ensure that students know they are not alone, and that asking for help is always okay.