Fiona Drouet, founder of the Scottish charity EmilyTest, visited Queen Margaret University (QMU) recently to raise awareness of gender-based violence.
EmilyTest was set up to tackle gender-based violence in education and promote prevention and intervention methods that can be adopted by academic institutions to keep students safe during their studies. Fiona’s daughter, Emily Drouet, was only 18 years of age when she took her own life as a result of being subjected to a campaign of abuse and violence by her boyfriend, a fellow university student.
The presentation - organised by QMU Students’ Union (QMUSU) and the student led Pink Stripes Society - was open to staff, students and invited members of the local community. There was also ‘protected time’ at the end for student participants to speak to Fiona in a protected, student-only environment.
Commenting on the event, Fiona Drouet said:
“Sadly - sexual, physical and psychological abuse is prevalent across our society. Universities often inherit these issues, and we want to do all we can to assist them in ensuring their campuses are safe places in which to live, work and study. I'm pleased to say there is admirable work ongoing across Scotland, and QMU are a prime example of good practice with strong student support leadership. Scotland is adopting a holistic approach to student safety and well-being and, as a result, we are strides ahead of many other countries in this regard.
‘That being said, we are far from perfect and have much more work to do. EmilyTest look forward to developing our Gender Based Violence (GBV) Charter with colleagues across Universities and Colleges. A mark of excellence, the intention is that it will be a strong driver in ensuring addressing GBV is firmly embedded into the DNA of all universities and colleges. Working with valued partners, it will allow us, as an independent body, to monitor policies, procedures and – importantly - practices in relation to the prevention and intervention of such abuse. It will enable students and their parents to make an informed decision on their place of study.
‘We look forward to working with the sector to further improve this area for all students across Scotland.”
The raising awareness event was part of a broader programme of work being undertaken by the University and the Students’ Union. The University is a member of Fearless Edinburgh, an innovative partnership which aims to address sexual violence within the Higher Education sector. Fearless Edinburgh first convened a couple of years ago with representatives from the four Edinburgh universities, and Police Scotland. It aims to take a collective approach and voice to tackling sexual violence for our students. Membership has expanded to include Edinburgh College, SRUC, NHS and Edinburgh Rape Crisis.
The University’s Tackling Sexual Harassment and Violence Working Group, which is co-convened by the Student President, has stakeholders drawn from key areas across the institution. The group continues to work on implementing the Equally Safe in Higher Education toolkit, which sets out a strategic approach to gender-based violence prevention in Scottish HEI’s.
The QMUSU continues to roll out bystander ‘train the trainer’ events across the University to both students and staff. So far, 18 people have been trained successfully to deliver sessions, which centre on safe interventions for bystanders and facilitate difficult but much-needed conversations around behaviour and social norms. QMUSU has led on the delivery of the initiative over the last two years, with dedicated support from PC Allen Paul, Police Scotland’s Community Safety Officer for East Lothian. Over 100 students, and several members of staff have attended the training sessions, with participants reporting increased confidence in their ability to intervene appropriately, as well as improved knowledge of the current societal issues around sexual violence. One participant said: “[It was a] really interesting session that I think is very useful. It would be great for it to try and reach as many people as possible”, while another remarked that “talking about such a sensitive topic can be hard but the resources/tasks used were effective and informative.”
PC Allen Paul said: “In our society, attitudes towards sexual harassment and sexual violence require to be changed. Police Scotland is delighted to support the great work that is being done at Queen Margaret University, and this work will undoubtedly play its part in trying to alter these attitudes and help keep people safe.”
Notes to Editor
For further media enquiries, please contact Gavin McNee (Media Relations and Content Officer) at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E: firstname.lastname@example.org, T: 0131 474 0000.
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