University event tackles gender-based violence

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The University of the Highlands and Islands has hosted a one-day event to explore how gender-based violence can be prevented on college and university campuses.  

The ‘Love doesn’t hurt’ event, which took place in Inverness on Tuesday 19 March, featured addresses from a range of guest speakers. Mrs Fiona Drouet from the Emily Test campaign spoke about the tragic death of her daughter, a law student who took her own life after being subjected to emotional and physical abuse by her former boyfriend.

Delegates also watched a video address from Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, who thanked attendees for coming together to discuss gender-based violence and underscored the Government’s commitment to tackling it.

The event is part of a series of three workshops taking place across Scotland to support the implementation of the Equally Safe in Higher Education Toolkit and to distil key lessons from Freshers’ Weeks and start of college year activities to inform future awareness work across Scotland’s colleges and universities. The toolkit, funded by the Scottish Government, developed by the University of Strathclyde and launched last year, provides a resource for colleges and universities to tackle gender-based violence. It includes information about the signs that someone may be in an abusive relationship, including changes in performance, missing classes and isolation from peers.

Dr Iain Morrison, Dean of Students at the university, helped to develop the toolkit and organise the ‘Love doesn’t hurt’ event. He said: “The University of the Highlands and Islands takes our responsibilities to our students and staff very seriously. We want every one of them to flourish and reach their full potential. Part of that is helping to ensure that they study and work in a healthy and supportive environment and culture. We are proud to host the national event as part of our ongoing commitment to maintaining this and appreciate the input of the many agency partners and speakers attending today.”

Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “We are determined that our campuses should be places where students can flourish, and where staff and students are empowered to tackle gender-based violence with absolute confidence.

“The Scottish Government has supported the development of the Equally Safe Toolkit, and we have provided additional funding to help colleges and universities adopt it.

“It is very encouraging to see collaborative work taking place at these regional events, and it is only by working together in this way that we will consign gender-based violence to the past.”

Sorcha Kirker, Vice-President (Higher Education) at the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association (HISA), said: “I am immensely proud that HISA has been able to take part in the event today and that the University of the Highlands and Islands has hosted it. Gender-based violence is a serious issue that affects many students and it is important that both HISA and the university are doing everything they can to ensure we have the most positive and supportive learning environment for our students. It is wonderful that we have been able to work closely on addressing this issue and I look forward to continuing this work with the university.”

The Equally Safe in Higher Education toolkit can be accessed at www.strath.ac.uk/humanities/schoolofsocialworksocialpolicy/equallysafeinhighereducation/eshetoolkit