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What does Prevention refer to?

Prevention refers to measures to promote changes in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour and attitudes of all members of the institutional community. It addresses the culture and values of the organisation and what it stands for. Good prevention strategies are comprehensive, consider intersectionality and address risk factors associated with social and cultural norms and unequal power relations.

In the context of research-performing organisations, prevention may consist of:

  • A clear code of conduct, laying out expected and unwanted behaviour, with a related protocol detailing procedures in case of violation of the code of conduct
  • Communication and materials for both existing and new staff and students about gender-based violence, its forms and institutional policies in place
  • Ongoing awareness-raising campaigns (among others on unwanted behaviour and the notion of consent) and training programmes
  • Improving features and knowledge (e.g. a button to report gender-based violence on online platforms, teachers’ evaluation surveys, lighting on campuses etc.)
  • Training and empowerment of bystanders
  • Integration of issues related to gender-based violence in teaching and research (both content and process)

How to approach Prevention?

Here you can find practical guidance and strategies to promote a safe and respectful work environment, prevent incidents of violence, and raise awareness and understanding of gender-based violence within the community. By incorporating prevention efforts, organisations can foster a culture of safety and respect and prevent harmful behaviours from taking place. Below, the most common measures are presented.

Code of conduct

A code of conduct is a set of rules and guidelines laying out the expected behaviours of the members of the organisation. The main elements of content typically include the following (if not covered in other policy documents, in which case reference should be made to them):

  1. Clear statement of the organisation’s values and mission
  2. Accepted and prohibited behaviours
  3. Consequences of violating the code, including disciplinary actions
  4. Clear steps of the procedure for reporting violations of the code
  5. Detailed process for investigation and resolution

A code of conduct should define gender-based violence and cover all forms, including online misconduct, and be in line with all relevant national and institutional laws and regulations related to gender-based violence. To be effective, a code of conduct should also specify its enforcement mechanisms. This can be accomplished by linking the code of conduct to a that outlines the enforcement procedures, or by including these parameters directly within the code of conduct.

In addition, a code of conduct should also refer explicitly to the institutional policies related to gender-based violence, if applicable. If such specific policy document(s) do(es) not exist, then it should be fully addressed in the code of conduct.

Communication about the policies/measures adopted to address gender-based violence

The existence of policies/measures to address and respond to gender-based violence is a significant driver of structural change. It is essential that organisations provide information on their commitment against gender-based violence. By doing so, they are actively demonstrating their dedication to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all students, staff, and faculty. This information should be in different channels to ensure maximum visibility and accessibility to all members of the organisational community.

In addition, higher education institutions and research organisations should also provide information on the process of making a complaint and ensure that safe channels are in place for individuals to report incidents of gender-based violence. Providing permanent information and a safe channel to complain is crucial in creating a culture of accountability and transparency, where gender-based violence is not tolerated and survivors are supported.

  • Use various communication channels (social media, webpage, newsletter etc.) to make various forms of gender-based violence visible and recognisable.
  • Inform all members of the organisation’s community about the measures for prevention, protection, prosecution and available services.
  • Plan systematic and permanent communication about the existing policies/measures, including to newcomers, and empower implementers and providers of services to cope with possible resistance.
  • Publicise the outcomes of the implementation of the policies/measures to increase the sense of safety and protection, and empower victims/survivors and bystanders to report incidents and break the silence.

Awareness-raising campaigns

Awareness-raising campaigns are an important component of preventing gender-based violence in higher education institutions and research-performing organisations. These campaigns serve to educate staff and students and increase understanding of the issue, create a culture of respect and equality, and promote a safe environment. Awareness-raising campaigns can take many forms, such as social media campaigns, workshops/seminars and events dedicated to a topic, internal radio and television broadcasts, competitions and challenges, exhibitions and displays, and more. Various channels can be used to promote the campaigns, such as posters, leaflets, social media posts, videos, newsletters, intranet, and any other forms of internal communication.

Remember! A campaign is more likely to be effective when it is underpinned by a clear communication strategy (laying out objectives, identifying the constituent activities, their timing and target groups, media to be deployed, roles and responsibilities, resources needed, etc.). It is good practice to create a working group, engaging the various stakeholders involved (communication department, graphic designers, representatives of staff and/or students, minority groups, etc.).

Explore UniSAFE’s step-by-step guide on setting up and running campaigns on gender-based violence, available here.

Educational programmes and training

Educational programmes and training aim to provide the community with information about the policies of the institution, procedures, reporting options, available services, and resources. By educating the community on the signs of violence and creating a shared understanding of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour, organisations can make a collective effort to prevent violence and address it when it occurs. Training also serves as an opportunity for staff and students to ask questions, clarify policies, and engage in open discussions about the issue. As a result, training can increase their confidence and trust in reporting incidents and creating a more supportive and informed community.

A thorough educational programme should, at the very least, guarantee that all students and staff are informed about:

  • Definitions of gender-based violence and its forms
  • Power imbalances and how they contribute to violence
  • Warning signs and behaviours that may indicate a risk of violence
  • Organisational policies and procedures for reporting and responding to incidents of violence
  • Relevant laws and legal protections for victims/survivors and perpetrators
  • Techniques for bystander intervention
  • The impact of violence on individuals, teams, and organisations
  • Skills for promoting a culture of respect and equality in the workplace

Bystander intervention

Bystander intervention refers to the actions taken by individuals who observe a potentially harmful situation. The purpose is to prevent (further) violence from occurring. When developing a bystander intervention programme, it is important to consider the following:

  • Offer training and education to staff and students on recognising signs and on developing intervention skills.
  • Create a supportive environment that encourages people to intervene and report incidents.
  • Provide clear guidelines and procedures for reporting incidents, including support for those who intervene.
  • Engage leadership and management in promoting the bystander intervention programme and reinforcing its importance.
  • Assess regularly and update the programme to ensure its relevance and effectiveness.

Prevention of gender-based violence for people doing fieldwork and spending time abroad

Prevention measures should also be foreseen for staff and students participating in off-site activities, such as conferences, fieldwork/field trips, internships, work placements, study placements abroad and more. Studying abroad and attending fieldwork constitute situations of higher risk of gender-based violence.

To prevent incidents of gender-based violence from occurring, consider the following:

For students studying abroad (international study placements)

  • Equip staff responsible for supporting students going abroad.
  • Equip students with information to better prepare them for their time abroad (contact information of immediate supervisors, contact information of the relevant embassy or consulate and of local emergency support services).
  • Collaborate with host organisations to ensure they have policies in place to prevent and address gender-based violence and provide students with information on reporting mechanisms and institutional support services, both from the home institution and the hosting organisation.

These actions will help students feel more supported and confident, knowing that their home institution is aiding their study experience abroad.

For staff and students doing fieldwork

Fieldwork can take place within or outside the country of the institution, sometimes in remote locations where communication with the home base is difficult. Fieldwork involves close proximity and interactions between individuals at different levels of the institutional power hierarchy, which may differ from on-campus interactions. Fieldwork is an arena that cannot be overlooked when developing a comprehensive institutional prevention approach.

  • Equip responsible staff with knowledge and resources to ensure the provision of safe and healthy environments for everyone participating in fieldwork.
  • Offer training to students and staff on gender-based violence (definition, warning signs, available services of the institution etc.) prior to fieldwork.
  • Consider measures and practices for solo researchers, such as regular “check-ins” with their supervisor or other liaison persons (e.g. at local municipal offices, museums, departments etc.).

For more information and inspiration for further actions, read the “Guidelines for the Prevention of Sexual Violence during Fieldwork” by the University of Toronto, available here and the “Code of Conduct relating to participation in Fieldwork” by University College London, available here.

Tips and Hints / Dos and Don'ts

  • Communication departments, where they exist, are key stakeholders in the implementation of a prevention strategy. Engage them in the design and implementation process. In addition, consider identifying individuals (staff and students) who are committed to preventing gender-based violence and who are willing to be part of a prevention working group, responsible for implementing and disseminating preventive practices and activities.
  • Be creative with the design of awareness campaigns and encourage active participation by the community.
  • When providing information, including on helplines, support services and reporting procedures on the website, make it easily accessible for the user. Avoid adding information under sub-categories or hidden on specific pages of departments or offices.
  • Design specific messages targeting newcomers (staff and students) directing them to materials related to the forms of gender-based violence, institutional policies and practice and more.
  • Consider mandatory sessions on gender-based violence during onboarding training for staff and students, and design (mandatory) training for staff targeting top management and staff members who are promoted, as part of a general training for leadership.
  • Offer training to students and make it a precondition to participate in other mandatory courses. The certification provided for this training could serve as a prerequisite for enrolment in subsequent courses. In order to make the training engaging and interactive, incorporating elements of gaming can be a useful approach. Additionally, students who attend the training could be awarded ECTS credits to recognise their efforts and incentivise their participation.
  • Allocate sufficient budget for awareness-raising campaigns and training programmes.
  • Regularly assess and update all the components of the prevention programme to ensure that it remains relevant and effective in preventing gender-based violence in the workplace.

Thinking intersectionally about Prevention

  • Consider the different ways in which intersectional identities impact the definition, recognition, and response to incidents of violence.
  • Highlight the experiences of marginalised communities, such as women of colour or LGBTQIA+ individuals, in training and awareness-raising campaigns.
  • Provide targeted support and resources for staff and students whose identities are marked by intersecting axes of inequality, such as language and culture-specific hotlines; awareness-raising campaigns in different formats, such as in braille notation.
  • Consider providing the option of online attendance at training, depending on the type of participation needed (passive versus active).
  • Engage with diverse staff (academic/administrative, junior/senior, tenured/temporary, with different backgrounds) and student groups (as informants or experts) during the design of a training programme or campaign and gather feedback. Develop a participatory process in which the involvement of different groups within the organisation is promoted.
  • Offer training on the notion of privilege with an intersectional approach. Prevention is also about training the staff and students about the accepted behaviours, and recognition that gender-based violence affects some groups more than others.

Inspiring practices

Campus Code of Conduct – University of Helsinki, Finland

The University of Helsinki’s Code of Conduct serves as a proactive and preventative measure by translating the institution’s values into expected behavioural guidelines. An intersectional perspective is also incorporated. However, the Code of Conduct lacks an explicit reference to any enforcement mechanisms, nor does it address institutional policies related to gender-based violence.

Code of Conduct – Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

TU Delft’s Code of Conduct is part of the university’s Integrity Policy. The code lists the core values of the university, gives directions on acceptable behaviours, and outlines the responsibilities of all staff members, students and guests. In addition, the Integrity Policy includes statements on social, academic and organisational integrity. Undesirable conduct, including sexual and general harassment, aggression, bullying and discrimination, is included under Social Integrity.

Student Code of Conduct – Virginia Tech University, USA

The Virginia Tech University’s Student Code of Conduct outlines the rights and responsibilities of students, as well as the policies and procedures designed to ensure a fair and equitable resolution of disputes. The code provides a comprehensive definition of gender-based violence, along with other prohibited forms of misconduct, and details the specific process for reporting sexual harassment and/or gender-based violence. Additionally, the code specifies potential sanctions, interim measures, and administrative actions that may be taken in response to violations.

Code of Conduct – Stanford University, USA

In the Code of Conduct of Stanford University, a set of standards are outlined as the expected behaviours by the members of the university as well as by any other individuals performing services for the university or interacting with members of the community. The code of conduct sets out supporting policies and standards related, among others, to policy on sexual harassment, on prohibited sexual misconduct, on consensual sexual or romantic relationships in the workplace and educational setting and on equal employment opportunity, non-discrimination and affirmative action. The code outlines the steps for reporting a violation and consequences of such actions.

Campaign “Where do we draw the line?” – Danish Working Environment Authority, Denmark

The Danish Working Environment Authority collaborated with unions and employers’ organisations to launch a campaign on sexual harassment. “Hvor går grænsen?” (Where do we draw the line?). In addition to a film describing sexual harassment and where to draw the line, dialogue cards depict different situations, where the players must decide how to respond. The cards are intended to start a dialogue about the working environment.

Together Consent – Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Together Consent is Trinity College Dublin’s sexual consent education programme. The team offers educational services on consent education in third-level education in Ireland, focused on consent and consent plus workshops, first responder (the first person with whom someone shares that they have been a victim/survivor of a sexual or other type of assault), training and bystander intervention.

Sexual Violence Prevention and Response – Arizona State University, USA

The Arizona State University (ASU) developed a series of practices and actions to prevent and respond to sexual violence. Among the supporting services offered to victims and survivors, ASU has a dedicated website on the topic, providing information on educational programmes offered by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training, and on the services offered within the university as well as in the wider community. Through the education programmes, students are encouraged to get involved and assist with awareness events, information tables, and serving on committees and workshops, to promote violence prevention.

Read more

During the “You can do something” awareness campaign for bystanders, ASU designed a poster series with tips for intervening as a bystander.

ASU has also developed a research-based confidential mobile application, myPlan App, to assess relational health between romantic and intimate partners. The app is designed for users to answer questions about their own personal relationship, or the relationship of a friend or family member that seems unsafe. The app helps them learn about signs of danger, and how to safely help as bystanders. It also provides resources such as national websites, chatlines and specifically targeted services, such as for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Breaking the Silence – Preventing Harassment and Sexual Misconduct – University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

The University of Cambridge’s prevention programme, Breaking the Silence, has invested in a number of initiatives for prevention and support for staff and students, bystanders’ intervention training programmes, and support-for-supporters materials. Training addressed to students includes topics such as “Consent Matters” and “Where do you draw the line”, while “Staff training on student disclosures for sexual assault” is addressed to all staff members. A series of supporting training is also provided for personal and professional development.

Universities Against Harassment – A cross-sectoral collaboration between universities, Switzerland

The Universities Against Harassment initiative is a Swiss-based campaign aimed at addressing and preventing sexual harassment and gender-based violence in higher education institutions. It was launched in 2019 by a group of Swiss universities to raise awareness and promote a culture of respect and inclusiveness, providing resources to those affected by harassment. The campaign involves various activities such as training sessions, events and online resources, and it fosters collaboration and exchange among different stakeholders, including staff and students. The unique element of this collaboration is that it is cross-sectoral, as in Switzerland there are several university sectors divided by type of institution, for example full universities, pedagogical universities, technical and specific field-oriented universities and institutes.

Don’t turn a blind eye Guide / Sexual Harassment: learn, prevent, protect – University of Geneva, Switzerland

The Don’t Turn a Blind Eye Guide was produced as part of the anti-harassment actions of the University of Geneva. The guide is well written and addresses students and staff alike. It includes definitions of different forms of gender-based violence and examples of actions and their consequences. It refers to the national and institutional legal framework, and provides guidance, contact points and a “survival kit” for victims/survivors. Tips and advice are also offered for staff in higher positions and witnesses of inappropriate behaviours. Also, postcards with slogans aimed at raising awareness can be found in this guide.

It Stops Now Campaign & Toolkit – ESHTE Project

The ESHTE (Ending Sexual Harassment and Violence in Third-Level Education) project aims to prevent and address sexual harassment and violence, and to build a culture of zero-tolerance in third-level education institutions throughout Europe. To implement its aim, the project has launched the It Stops Now campaign which builds a culture of zero tolerance of sexual harassment and violence in third-level education institutes by raising awareness and developing training and policy resources for students and staff. The toolkit shares knowledge generated by the ESHTE project and offers a rich range of resources for policy development, training and campaigning. Chapter 5 of the Toolkit includes guidance and materials for campaigning for change, and additional training programmes for bystander intervention and promotional materials (posters, mural installation guidance, stickers and more) can be found in Chapter 6, Shared Resources.

Equally Safe in Higher Education Toolkit – University of Strathclyde Glasgow, United Kingdom

The Equally Safe in Higher Education (ESHE) Toolkit was created at the University of Strathclyde by the ESHE project and provides a practical collection of free materials and resources developed specifically for Scottish universities. The toolkit provides access to a range of information and resources to expand and develop institutional response to gender-based violence and covers areas such as research, policy, campus response, primary prevention, intervention, curriculum and knowledge exchange.

Sexual Consent Education – Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom

Oxford Brookes University designed the sexual consent education programme for staff and students to help them engage with the complexities of consent. The programme includes a Moodle course that enhances understanding the law, gender norms, stereotypes and cultural factors which might affect someone’s ability to consent. The courses provide tools for communication about consent with partners and information on where to seek support if harassment or violence happens. The “Let’s talk about consent!” webinar series is designed to open up conversations among staff, students and wider communities about the complexities of sexual consent education.

Never OK Campaign and SafeZone App – University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Salford, United Kingdom

The Never OK campaign aims to promote an environment and culture of zero tolerance of sexual harassment and violence, and encourages the members of the university community to be active bystanders and challenge unacceptable behaviour when they witness it. The campaign also encourages students to complete the “Understanding Consent” module and report incidents through the University’s Report and Support system. They three universities have built a mobile application, SafeZone App, that aims to keep students safe when studying on campus or having fun in the city.

Resources and further reading

Step-by-step guide for awareness-raising campaigns – UniSAFE

UniSAFE’s step-by-step guide provides a practical tool for universities and research organisations across Europe who would like to learn more about setting up awareness-raising campaigns and replicating the inspiring practices presented. It is meant for communication officers, gender equality/equality and diversity officers, or any staff interested. Explore further.

Training materials for Active Bystander Intervention – UniSAFE

The training package on active bystander intervention is available for trainers and change agents, to assist them in providing capacity-building activities. The package includes guidance on the training approach, format, preparation, supporting materials, scripts, templates, and more. This training (available for onsite and online format) aims to educate institution members (staff and students) on gender-based violence and provide them with the necessary skills to recognise and intervene in risky and inappropriate situations. The programme includes interactive exercises, examples of the gender-based violence continuum, role playing and discussions on identifying risk and inappropriate situations and making safe interventions. Explore further.

Humorarium Toolkit – GEARING-Roles project

The GEARING-Roles Horizon 2020 project has developed the Humorarium Toolkit, with arguments and vignettes using feminist humour, to support gender equality stakeholders in their effort to address resistance to change in research-performing organisations. The toolkit shows how feminist art and humour can be powerful means to reach different groups of people and promote equality in a light and effective way on topics that could be perceived as contentious. In order to encourage reflection and active participation on the subject of sexism and gender equality in academia, the toolkit provides counter-arguments to build the case for gender equality in academia, a set of recommendations addressed to individuals and policy-makers, and a list of inspiring ideas and activities for the use of vignettes to further embrace the use of feminist humour in academia. Explore further.

Irish Health and Safety Authority on ‘bullying at work’

The Health and Safety Authority in Ireland dedicates a section of its website to bullying at work. It provides information and resources on how to recognise and prevent workplace bullying, as well as guidance on what to do if someone is experiencing or witnessing bullying. Explore further.

Assessing Campus Readiness for Prevention – Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, United States

The manual outlines a strategy that combines modern primary preventive techniques with cutting-edge sexual assault advocacy. This method enables the user to more effectively apply their knowledge to support university communities’ efforts to address sexual violence. The manual offers ideas and resources to direct users as they give their partner colleges technical support and training. Explore further.