We the members of Students Rise International and the European Students’ Union call for action to end violence against women. Today begins the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence around the world. We recognise that despite the progress that has been made, women still subject to disproportionate levels of violence – both in regards to sexual violence and domestic abuse – everywhere they live. The impact of COVID-19 has only exacerbated this crisis and the new environment leaving women subjected to abuse feeling trapped and isolated from accessing support or safety. We cannot and must not avert our eyes from this crisis and act as if nothing can be done. It is vital that we must work together to demand strong action from governments and organise together to tackle Gender-Based Violence both at a local community, regional, national and international levels.
Violence against women exists in many spheres of life, including higher education. Indeed, tackling sexual misconduct such as sexual violence on campuses and in higher education overall is a crucial hurdle to cross in order to truly ensure equal access to education for everyone. This is an issue, which pervades higher education around the world in leaving student survivors feeling powerless, isolated and left behind. It is the fight against this that should unite us in working to uplift and amplify the voices of all survivors, including those from marginalised and minority communities.
Everyone, from individual students and staff to higher education institutions, to governments and international bodies, must commit to showing zero tolerance for Gender-Based Violence. Institutional actors must commit to taking actions to improve safety within study, work, social and public environments while ensuring accessible and effective mechanisms and public services to protect and support survivors of sexual violence in private spaces. We all must commit to taking action, to do their best, to shape their environments so that everyone can feel safe within them.
Direct steps need to be taken to ensure that survivors of violence and harassment feel protected and secure in disclosing sexual violence and harassment, confident that they will be believed and that action will be taken to bring perpetrators to justice. Survivors must never be put in a situation where they have to put their degree and mental health on the line in order to seek some form of justice against their perpetrator. It is vital that survivors know of and can access Counselling and therapy services accessible for all survivors in recognising the different journeys to recovery that many will take including when and if they choose to disclose may take weeks, months or years.
Join us in calling for action from those in power, and in support of our pledges.