Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. Early this morning a school girl from near Halesowen was stabbed on a bus. We spoke about it in my class tonight briefly, and students are shocked and horrified, like most people locally. The girl was 16, and her attacker apparently a man in his early 20s. It is far too early to speculate about how any of this has taken place, all that seems to be known at this point is that she was on the bus on her way to school.
A few weeks ago another lecturer contacted me to discuss a situation surrounding a former student. She was no longer in his class having gone onto University but had contacted him in distress to ask for help. It became apparent that she had been in an abusive relationship for some years (including her time in his class while she was still in FE) and was now in a situation where she had been raped on campus by her now-ex, who was also a University student. Like many lecturers, he wanted to help but was unsure of how to best support her.
1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime – many of these on a number of occasions.
One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute.
On average, 2 women a week are killed by a current or former male partner.
In education we have a duty to be educated and to educate about violence against women and girls (VAWG) for two reasons.
1) Firstly, lecturers may be the first port of call for students when they choose to disclose about domestic or relationship violence. If there is a good relationship, students often see a lecturer as a trustworthy, knowledgeable person to turn to who will be able to advise them on how to escape from a dangerous situation. If a lecturer is not trained to guide or refer a student correctly, this may mean that either a situation is left to develop further or even that dangerous advise is given.
2) Secondly, education has more power than any other thing to change our society for the better. If young people are taught about issues that surround relationship and domestic violence – if they are taught about rape culture, about consent, about respect – then an educational institution has the power not just to react effectively to but also to prevent violence.
International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to get a campaign started in your institution to get action to prevent VAWG into Colleges. The current “This is Abuse” campaign is pretty high profile and may mean Senior figures are listening. A good way to get started is to write to Senior Management – the Principal, Head of Equality or Head of Pastoral Support – to get a conversation started. A good way to start might be sharing some statistics to emphasise the impact VAWG has for students. Highlight the two ways in which Colleges can fulfill their equality duty:
1) By providing training for staff for recognising, supporting and referring vulnerable students, and integrating prevention in the culture of the institution
2) Putting together a program for prevention of domestic and relationship violence as part of the pastoral calendar for students
Finally, you can link them up to some resources. The EVAW coalition have a great selection of stuff for schools and colleges here. There are also government resources here. It might be worth offering to help in any group set up to work on introducing new training and student programs.
As the EVAW coalition state, VAWG is one of the biggest dangers women face – but it is not inevitable. This IWD let’s work on our colleges to make the difference for the students of today and tomorrow.