Research evidence and media debates have recently highlighted high levels of everyday sexism, lad cultures, sexual harassment, sexual violence and domestic abuse at university campuses in the UK. We understand all these behaviours and attitudes which are underpinned by inequitable power relations as gender-based violence (GBV) because they hurt, threaten or undermine people because of their gender or (perceived) sexuality. Gender based violence includes homophobic bullying and abuse, and domestic abuse takes place in heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Men can be victims of abusive relationships. However research shows that the vast majority of such violence is perpetrated against women and girls by men and boys (Watts & Zimmerman 2002).
Stand Together is an action research project that is taking place at the University of Lincoln (UL) to tackle the issue of gender based violence. We are working in partnership with with third sector organisations and student societies/ student union at UL to roll out a university-wide prevention education programme, one of the first of its kind in the UK.
Bystander Intervention programmes (a form of prevention education training) are well-established in US universities. They recognise the connection between acts of GBV and broader cultural norms and values within which such behaviours and attitudes flourish. They aim to work with men AND women to shift these norms, to recognise violence-tolerant attitudes and situations, and equip them with the skills to intervene effectively and safely.
The ‘Stand Together’ programme at UoL entails peer education programmes involving student volunteers, a poster campaign and a theatre project facilitated by Scottish Women’s Aid, White Ribbon Campaign and Tender.
For example, students will receive two days’ training from Scottish Women’s Aid and White Ribbon Campaign, learning how to recognise problematic attitudes and behaviour (eg., homophobic statements or jokes, victim blaming attitudes, abusive behaviour) and will be given training on ways to speak out and challenge such behaviour safely if they encounter it, and on how to offer support to those effected by it. Once they have been trained, the students will then run further workshops in pairs for other groups of students to pass on their knowledge and skills.
A group of students from the School of Fine and Performing Art will work with Tender, a charity which uses theatre to promote healthy relationships, to develop theatrical performances on the issue of gender-based violence. These performances will be shown across the university campus.
Additionally students will design posters to spread their message across the university and in venues in the city of Lincoln.
This project is being conducted by a team of researchers from the Schools of Social and Political Sciences, Health and Social Care and Fine and Performing Art and is being funded by College of Social Sciences.
A crucial aspect of this project is to provide an evidence base on the role of prevention education in shifting attitudes and intervention behaviour around gender-based violence. The research team will be conducting a range of mixed methods evaluation to understand the role of prevention education in shifting attitudes and intervention behaviour in relation to GBV.