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New training responds to rise in reports of sexual violence on campus

University staff across Europe will be trained as ‘first responders’ to sexual violence on campus, following a €1.1 million grant to tackle a rise in reports of harassment and attacks.

The grant from the EU’s Justice Programme has been awarded to Brunel University London’s Youth Studies researcher Dr Pam Alldred, who will develop the training with European partners.

In October, National Union of Students research That’s what she said showed 50 per cent of study participants identified “prevailing sexism, ‘laddism’ and a culture of harassment” at their universities.

As reports of sexual violence on campus rise, so have reports of the gap in responsive and sensitive student services and the urgency for universities to respond quickly and correctly.

The project team will design, develop and pilot training for university staff to be effective first responders to reports of sexual violence by their students. The training will be extended to security, bar and refectory staff as well as those employed in accommodation and counselling services, and will become part of a university’s staff development programme.

Dr Ruth Caleb, Chair of Universities UK’s mental wellbeing working group and Head of Counselling at Brunel University London said: “All universities have a responsibility to understand that sexual harassment and violence are issues that need to be challenged, and that excellent training is required for university staff to support and respond to a student disclosing such abuse.

“I am delighted that Dr Alldred has been successful in her bid to design, develop and pilot training for university staff to be effective ‘first responders’ to reports of sexual violence by their students and I am looking forward to working with her on this crucial initiative.”

Brunel and the University of Sussex will lead a review of research on best practice in first responder support and referral, and report to partners. Then each of seven European partner universities in Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK will design a training programme appropriate for their country and context informed by the report. These will be piloted in 14 universities for the research.