Content warning: Discussion of gender-based violence
On Monday 7th October, the University of Edinburgh society Girl Up launched its campaign to eliminate gender-based violence, with the issue still having a dominant presence in the university context, as well as proving to be prevalent worldwide.
It is Girl Up’s aim to provide support to young girls across the world, protecting those at risk of FGM and gender-based violence such as coercive control and domestic violence.
The campaign launch gave students a chance to pose questions to the group of five panellists: Lezley Marion Cameron, Sara McHaffie, Omalara Plang, Rachel Jane Hendry and Poppy Gerrard Abbott, all of whom specialize in fields working to eliminate gender-based violence within vulnerable communities.
Saffron Roberts from the student-led organisation Period Poverty and Niamh McCrossan from The Noisy Movement also had the opportunity to explain their aims and inspiration behind their projects.
PhD candidate Poppy Gerrard Abbott said how it was “lovely to see some men in the room” with gender-based violence being a “collective responsibility”.
Fourth year student Matthew attending the event told The Student, that the issue of gender-based violence “needs to be discussed and the more men that come down to things like this the better.”
The lack of gender parity and representation at senior levels of management is still prevalent and so there is a need for more women and most importantly, men, to push these agendas in order to accomplish “cultural change”.
During the panel discussion Poppy argued the fact that women keep turning towards internet-based movements such as Me Too and Time’s Up rather than reporting to the Government, shows the “chronic lack of confidence” women have in the criminal justice system. She stressed its “historical male dominance” in policy and law reflecting a “male world view.”
Only two to six percent of women choose to report and even fewer report being satisfied with the procedure as ninety percent report being “mistreated” during the process. Examples were discussed in the panel in which women’s previous sexual history and underwear has been used as a way to discredit rape allegation.
Poppy said how “radical reform” was necessary and how there appears to be an “illusion of change” happening within the university context.
Poppy’s research also includes looking at “lad-culture” in universities which she defined as “a form of contemporary masculinity that acts as a backlash towards advancements in gender equality.” Two in three female students will experience sexual harassment or assault before they graduate and only six percent report to their universities. However, while there has been a “seismic shift” in policy and awareness within the university context, it is well evidenced that violence against women is “higher among the student population than the general population.”
Rachel Jane Hendry said there was such a “heteronormative culture” around sexual violence meaning cases involving LGBT people are “less well understood”. She also said that “anyone can perpetrate sexual violence and anyone can be a victim.” Sara stated how “men can be on the receiving end of abuse as well as women” which is often forgotten.
Government services are described as “cut to the bone” and can “barely do their job” by Rachel with annual cuts made to funding for domestic abuse services. Such cuts highlighted the importance of support provided by organizations such as Sisters Uncut, Bright Choices and Amina’s Violence Against Women and Girls, of which the panellists were involved with.
However, progress is being made with these services specializing in helping victims of gender-based violence in all its forms, Lezley said “there’s so much more to do”.
Girl Up and the event encouraged those that attended to start by talking about the issue. Such engagement and smaller conversations are crucial as demonstrated in other global issues, one Swedish girl started with one school strike and she now has the whole world listening.
Girl Up society have a number of events planned for the rest of the academic semester, based on their campaign of gender-based violence.
If you are a victim of gender-based violence or want more information on gender-based violence, contact Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre on 08088 010302.
Image: Kim Traynor via geograph.org.uk