Protecting female students from harassment and sexual assault: A human-centred approach

Dr. Caroline. L. Davey
University of Salford (UK)
Andrew B. Wootton
University of Salford (UK)

Harassment and sexual assault are a key concern for universities due to the impact that such incidents have on student victims—and potentially on a university's reputation. Women are particularly at risk during student nights out, where unsafe routes home increase vulnerability, and alcohol may fuel risky, transgressive and/or abusive behaviour. The ProtectED team at the University of Salford (UK) has developed a code of practice to ensure student safety, security and wellbeing in higher education. This contains ‘instruments’ that, among other issues, specifically address ‘harassment and sexual assault’ and the 'student night out’. The instruments were developed through a creative design process involving: action research; identification of themes; concept generation; and testing with an advisory group of key stakeholders. This highlighted the need to adopt a broader approach to harassment, stemming from the fact that harassment may occur online and relate to other issues and identities. ProtectED is helping universities tackle sexual assault as part of a wider programme of measures to ensure student safety, security and wellbeing and improve the student experience. ProtectED promotes partnership working at all levels — internally and externally — and will enable the collection and analysis of more accurate data across the higher education sector, to allow service improvement.