Safe360°™Gender-Based Violence Policy

Section 1: Introduction

1.1 Scope

We promote gender equality and do not tolerate any form of gender-based violence (GBV) or abusive behaviour. This policy communicates the attitudes and standards of behaviour expected by all members of the University Community, and set out in law.

Actions which constitute gender-based violence offences, are a breach to this policy and are illegal, we take this to include; sexual misconduct, sexual violence, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, relationship abuse, coercive control, physical or psychological violence, intimidation, exploitation and abuse of trust, image-based or digital harm. GBV includes a broad spectrum of harmful behaviour. For examples of behaviour that constitute a violation of this Policy, see Section 1.6 and Appendix 1: GBV Harmful Behaviours.

We do not stand for rape culture, nor do we perpetuate a culture which reinforces misogynistic attitudes and harmful behaviours. There is no place here for bullying or discrimination, including through text messages, emails and social media posts. This includes complicity, retaliation, malicious and vexatious reporting.

In the case of behaviours likely to cause or result in harm, abuse or neglect of a person(s), the University works with Police Scotland and other public agencies to support a lawful and respectful University Community.

This policy advises on what to do if you need to report GBV personally, or if you receive:

  • a disclosure of harm
  • an allegation of abuse
  • you have a concern that a person is at risk, see or suspect abuse (no disclosure)

We use the term Reporter to describe a person who reports an incident, a disclosure or a concern.

We use the term Reported to describe a person who is accused of causing harm or who is considered a cause for concern. Where a person at risk discloses or discusses potential abuse or harm, the staff member or volunteer should be able to:

  • Recognise signs of GBV
  • Respond sensitively
  • Record factually
  • Report using Report and Support

1.2 Absolute Accountability

This policy supports fundamental human rights and enforces the expectation that no harm should come to beneficiaries of our programmes or students and staff undertaking activity with, or on behalf of the University. Importantly, the policy relates to all aspects of gender-based violence. Its provisions for duty of care and support, apply to all members of the University Community within the physical, digital and global campus, including:

  • University Court and Senate Members, Trustees, Executive Team Representatives
  • All members of staff including those with full-time, part-time and sessional contracts, honorary staff, and staff from other institutions or organisations on placement, or working on a visiting basis at the University
  • All students, including exchange and placement students
  • University students and staff on, and off campus (including work-based and placement learning, clinical, educational, legal settings etc.) regardless of their mode of study and irrespective of whether a matter arises during term time or academic holiday periods.
  • Visitors, including adults and children using the University’s premises
  • Individuals working or acting on the University’s behalf including suppliers of goods and services, and those who represent the University regardless of the nature or term of their contract or secondment, or location.
  • Contractors and volunteers working at, or on behalf of the University

1.3 Our Vision & Aims of this Policy

This policy communicates the attitudes and standards of behaviour expected by all members of the University Community and set out in law.

Collectively, we (the University) take a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of gender-based violence, and the attitudes and behaviours which support them to ensure a safe learning and working environment which embraces equality, consent and mutual respect.

We aim to build a culture of awareness and understanding to help you feel informed to know what to do if you are a first point of contact for a person reporting GBV.

We are committed to ensuring a compassionate, supportive and non-judgemental culture, for those seeking to disclose of GBV, incidents or concerns of harm, abuse or misconduct.

Clear and transparent processes enable reporting. We respect the choice of a Reporter to proceed with their disclosure at a pace and in a way that they feel comfortable with.

We believe that no one should suffer alone or in silence, and we recognise that the impact of GBV can be profound and always unique to the individual, it can be recent or historic and we provide dedicated support, discrete and without cost to help identify a way forward.

All University staff are alert to the Policy and trained appropriately for their roles. Our network of First Responders is trained to support a sensitive, robust and effective response to reported cases of GBV compassionately, with discretion, and without judgement.

Information and support are widely signposted, and we work with Strath Union to deliver targeted campaigns and to receive feedback.

We work with partners and to create a supportive and informed network and to ensure that our approach to tackling GBV is continually improving and responsive to wider policy and practice.

To deliver the Policy, the University harnesses expertise from within the University, across Sectors and with local, national and international perspective so that we can stay alert to diverse perspectives and the cultural or intersectional factors of GBV.

We apply a case review approach to reflect on our processes.

1.6 GBV Offences & harmful behaviours

Gender-based violence can affect children, young people and adults and can occur in diverse settings. Everyone deserves to have their personal boundaries respected.

Actions listed below include those that result in physical, sexual and psychological harm of the recipient or the violation of their dignity and can include (but are not limited to) the following gender-based violence offences:

  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence (incl. rape and sexual assault, coercive control etc)
  • Unwanted sexual or gender-based physical, verbal, written, digital conduct or threat which has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity, safety or health of an individual.
  • Discrimination, broadly defined as treating someone less favourably on the grounds of their gender.
  • Bullying behaviour, harassment or conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic with the purpose or effect to violate a person’s dignity likely to intimidate, harm, control or diminish another person, physically or mentally. This may include creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for a person within the personal, professional and public environment.

The following list are examples of harmful and illegal behaviour. The list is not exhaustive and may be updated any time:

  • Sexual bullying, harassment or intimidation, including online
  • Sexual insults
  • Sharing of intimate images or film
  • Outing
  • Stalking
  • Unwanted touching or kissing
  • Relationship abuse, domestic abuse and coercive control
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Commercial sexual exploitation
  • Up skirting
  • Grooming
  • Slavery, trafficking and exploitation
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • Forced marriage
  • Dowry related violence
  • Honour-based crimes
  • Violence of impact

1.7 Abuse of Trust: Our expectations upon the University Community

Anyone who comes within the Scope of this Policy is considered by the University to be a person in a position of trust, even if their role does not specifically require a PVG. The law sets out that it is illegal for a person in a position of trust, aged 18 years or older (an adult), to engage in a sexual activity with, or directed at a person who is under 18.

It is also against the law for an adult to engage in sexual activity with someone who is aged 16 or 17 if the older person is in a position of trust. A position of trust is someone who looks after you for example, in a school, a care home or as noted below, in a college or university.

Further information is provided in the University’s Child Safeguarding Policy and Social Media guidance.

1.8 Responsibilities

  • The University Compliance Officer is the Lead for the overall Safe360°Safeguarding Framework and is responsible for the application of the procedures associated with this Policy.
  • Approval of this Policy and procedures is authorised by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Education Strategy Committee, Staff Committee Court and Senate.
  • The Director of Student Experience is responsible for the day-to-day management of the GBV Policy and implementation of related procedures and support for matters relating to students.
  • The Director of Human Resources is responsible for the procedures relating to disclosures, allegations or reports involving staff, including support sought by staff.
  • The First Responder Network of key contacts are promoted widely for disclosures, reporting, support or guidance relating to a GBV incident for any member of the University community.
  • The University of Strathclyde expects partner organisations of the University to have their own GBV, safeguarding policies and child protection reporting procedures in place but Strathclyde University representatives should never be complacent. University staff must always demonstrate leadership in checking for, and applying, safeguarding processes.

1.9 Working with others to tackle GBV

We recognise that connections are key. Through partnership, we aim to prevent gender-based violence in all its forms through joint strategic and operational actions, tackle violence and deliver human rights. We work with Strath Union, expert organisations and sector, local authority and charity partners to understand and address the multifarious dynamics of GBV. Onward referral to expert support agencies ensures that reporters of GBV receive timely, appropriate and specialist support and help. 

Section 2: Addressing Culture & Behaviour

2.1 Trauma-sensitive, compassionate, caring and non-judgemental

At any time, any member of the University Community may be a first point of contact for a person reporting GBV. We are committed to understanding trauma and trauma-informed practice to ensure a responsive and supportive environment for the disclosure of GBV by any member of the University Community.

Our support services are compassionate and non-judgemental and we commit to support anyone experiencing GBV (including historical or non-recent sexual offences), anyone sharing a concern on behalf of someone, or who has a complaint to make about the conduct of others. We recognise that supportive relationships matter to build trust and empower individuals if a person feels comfortable sharing information, to think together about what might help and signpost the right support.

2.2 Interaction between equality characteristics

Gender-based violence can be experienced by anyone. We recognise the intersectional factors of GBV, how equality characteristics interact, affect a person’s experience of GBV, access to support and outcomes. We acknowledge that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalise people – sex/gender, age, disability (including mental health or physical illness) race, nationality, ethnic origin or perceived ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, transgender identity, maternity, pregnancy, marital status, religion or belief.

We recognise that certain types of violence have a disproportionate effect on women and girls who are at greatest risk. This results from gender inequality in wider society. Whilst GBV is experienced mostly by women and perpetrated mainly by men, many men and boys are victims of violence and abuse, and prevailing societal views of masculinity can make it difficult for males to identify themselves as victims of abuse and can prevent them from seeking help.

We know that GBV can occur in any relationship, within professional, family, community or institutional settings and regardless of background, economic status, age, disability, ethnicity, faith, sex, gender, gender assignment, marital status or sexual orientation, nationality or economic status. Women, people with disabilities, LGBT+ people and children are disproportionately affected by GBV which in some cases can compound vulnerability and intersect with forms of discrimination, harassment or bullying.

GBV can cause severe and long-lasting physical and mental health problems. We are striving to develop our understanding of intersectional issues, and the impact on gender inequality and marginalised women. We are alert to violence against disabled women, risks relating to sex work, the LGBT+ community, black and minority ethnic women which is informed and exacerbated by other forms of oppression. These can include financial hardship, caring responsibilities, reduced participation in the workforce, addiction or social isolation, which leaves individuals ever more vulnerable to violence.

Through the continual review of this policy and procedures we consider how protected characteristics interact, and assess the impact of how those equalities and privileges interact, to affect their experiences of seeking support.

Our principal tools for this are the Equality Impact Assessment process and Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment. We refer to:

2.3 Consent & Sexual misconduct

In line with the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 and the principal of free agreement, informed by The Rosey Project and Police Scotland this section addresses sexual misconduct, clarifies our understanding of consent and makes clear the University’s expectations in relation to safe and respectful intimate behaviour.

The age of consent in Scotland is 16. This means that 16 is the age that the law considers a person old enough to say yes to having sex with someone else whether they are straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual. In Scotland, sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 13 is rape.

Sex includes any sexual act, including oral sex. Sex does not have to involve a penis. Sexual assault is sexually touching someone without their consent.

Consent, in simple terms, is deciding whether you want to do something or not. When it comes to sex and relationships, consent is non-negotiable. Consent applies to the physical and digital domains.

We recognise that Consent must be:

  • Willing - Consent is freely given. It is not the result of pestering, wearing someone down or making someone feel like they ‘owe’ something. Someone should never try to persuade, pressure, deceive or encourage another person into doing things they do not want to do. This is not consent. A person cannot gain consent by using threat, manipulation, violence or abuse of power.
  • Coherent – If a person is drunk, high or asleep, they cannot consent to sexual activity. If you’re not sure, you do not have consent. Alcohol or drugs can impair a person’s ability to make decisions, so the law says they cannot consent to sex. Sex without consent is rape. No-one should take advantage of someone who is under the influence or who cannot or does not give consent. No one should give someone alcohol or drugs without their consent.
  • Communicated - People use both verbal and non-verbal cues (body language) to indicate consent. Saying ‘yes’ is one way of giving consent, but people can give it or take it away in other ways too. Even if someone doesn’t say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ verbally, they may be communicating this with their bodies or actions. The absence of ‘no’, is not a ‘yes’. Silence without actions demonstrating permission, cannot be assumed to show consent.
  • Ongoing – If someone consents to one form of sexual activity, it does not mean they consent to another. It is important to pay attention to the person you are being intimate with to make sure you are both/all happy and comfortable with what is going on. A person may do something one time but decide they do not want to do it again. This is ok. Consent is needed every time persons engage in sexual activity, this means a clear, knowing and voluntary consent to any sexual activity whether they are with someone they have just met or in a relationship. If someone changes their mind and no longer gives consent this must be respected straight away, even if it makes the other person feel disappointed, hurt or frustrated.

2.4 Sharing of intimate images or film

At Strathclyde we identify a growing issue in relation to the sharing of intimate images or film. This affects all age groups and is prevalent in school and college-age students and adults. For this reason, we refer to the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016, Section 2 which states that it is illegal to disclose or threaten to disclose intimate, nude or explicit photographs or film.

Sharing an intimate image of someone without their consent is a form of sexual violence. Even if you chose to share the image with the person, whether self-generated, or they have given you money for the image, it is still a crime for them to share it without permission and can result in a prison sentence.

In Scotland, the age of consent is 16. It is against the law to share nude or explicit images of someone under the age of 18, even if the picture is of yourself, except in cases where all the following apply:

  • The young person depicted in the image is at least 16
  • The two parties were partners in an established relationship
  • The young person consented to the image being taken / made / in the other’s possession
  • Any sharing was only with each other

2.5 Developing an Active Bystander Culture

We work together to develop a culture that enables anyone to report concerns and to monitor safeguarding protocol to identify and address any gaps or weaknesses. This Policy appeals to every member of the University community to contribute to an active bystander culture and this policy and procedure is intended to support anyone to make an intervention or report a concern on behalf of a person they feel to be at risk, or something they witness, such as harmful behaviour.

A bystander is anyone who observes any situation. At times, we may witness events around us that make us feel uncomfortable. We can be faced with the dilemma to do something, or do nothing (a passive bystander). Being an active bystander means challenging prejudice and discrimination when you see it, in a way that feels safe for you. This may be to speak up, speak out, offer, or call for help.

2.6 Addressing Rape Culture

We work together with Strath Union and Strathclyde Sport to challenge everyday behaviours that create a world where GBV, sexual misconduct, victim blaming and rape is made acceptable by normalising harmful attitudes and behaviours, and through downplaying. We call this "rape culture".

‘Rape culture is pervasive. It’s embedded in the way we think, speak, and move in the world. While the contexts may differ, rape culture is always rooted in patriarchal beliefs, power, and control.

Rape culture is the social environment that allows sexual violence to be normalized and justified, fuelled by the persistent gender inequalities and attitudes about gender and sexuality. Naming it is the first step to dismantling rape culture.

Every day we have the opportunity to examine our behaviours and beliefs for biases that permit rape culture to continue. From the attitudes we have about gender identities to the policies we support in our communities; we can all take action against rape culture’.

2.7 Reporting misconduct

If you observe, or are concerned that someone in a position of trust is putting a person at risk, has caused harm, or is behaving inappropriately, do not ignore it. Speak up.

Report your concern using Report and Support (this can be done anonymously) or contact the First Responder Network in the first instance.