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What does Provision of services refer to?

Provision of services refers to the services offered to support victims/survivors, families, bystanders of gender-based violence and community members affected by it. Provision of services also refers to the professionals who provide the services (e.g. those involved in specialised training) and the existing tools (e.g. guidelines, learning materials) to assist in better addressing the needs of the target groups. Importantly, the availability of services needs to be well known by all staff and students as well as by managers and supervisors. Provision of services overlaps with other Ps, notably Protection, Prosecution and Partnerships.

Provision of services can include:

  • General support / helplines / information services
  • Psychological support services and counselling
  • Medical aid / health care
  • Legal counselling / advocacy services
  • Training for the role of ombudsperson
  • Support services for bystanders
  • Counselling and rehabilitation programmes for perpetrators
  • Referrals to professionals and external services such as police, legal services, harassment crisis centres etc.
  • Capacity-building, notably for professionals with roles in policy implementation
  • Conflict resolution services (as an optional route and only for ‘milder’ incidents)

How to approach Provision of services?

Services aim to respond to individual needs and preferences and may include access to a variety of external support services. Confidentiality is a key consideration throughout the process. In principle, services are open to any party on an equal basis, thus not excluding access for accused persons or perpetrators.

Counselling services and general support such as psychological, medical and legal assistance are among the main services offered. Organisations can provide information and support to victims/survivors who may need to take legal action, such as filing a police report or obtaining a restraining order. Service provision may also include assistance in navigating the reporting process, connecting victims/offenders with legal resources, and guiding them through the institution’s disciplinary process.

Provide clear and accessible information: All members of the organisational community must know which services are available to them. The information should be easy to find, clear and simple to understand, and including all relevant elements (such as contact information, e-mail addresses, working hours for specific services, training materials etc.). Find good examples of such pages here (University of the West of Scotland) and here (University of Glasgow, including information on services offered by external parties).

A strong communication strategy will enhance the spread of information and will give users confidence that the university has the capacity to provide professional support in case of any incidents.

Ensure professionalism and confidentiality: Staff members of the service should be trained and qualified professionals, able to offer support and guidance and respond to the needs of survivors with sensitivity and understanding. It is paramount that their approach is trauma-informed and victim-centred. Any personal information about the service users is to be treated confidentially.

Ensure accessibility and inclusion: The services provided should be granted and be easily accessible to all students and staff members regardless of their status (tutors, trainers, visiting lecturers, part-time staff, research fellows, exchange students etc.). It is good practice to provide various means of contacting the services, considering online and offline channels. Having confidential counsellors and trust persons positioned at various sites throughout the institution, near specific community sub-groups (such as international students/staff or technicians) improves the accessibility of services.

In addition, the institution needs to consider how it will ensure the provision of support, in case of need, to individuals who are in locations where services may be less accessible, such as during field trips, in remote research sites or when abroad for seminars and conferences. Further information about local support services can be provided to staff and students who are planning to travel. This can include contact details of local emergency services, medical facilities and support organisations. Remote support services may include crisis hotlines, e-mail or video conferencing, for individuals who find themselves in situations where they require immediate assistance.

Promote education and capacity-building: Provision of services includes actions related to prevention measures, such as awareness-raising campaigns about the available support services. It also includes capacity-building and continued training for the professionals and other staff involved in the service provision and handling of cases (e.g. those acting as trust persons or confidential counsellors across the organisation).

Foster collaboration: Provision of services is directly linked to partnerships and may rely on external services, for example those provided by non-governmental and civil society organisations. Collaborations with local law enforcement agencies, healthcare providers and community organisations help to ensure that victims, families and bystanders, as well as offenders, have access to the range of resources and support services they need.

Bystander intervention can prevent (further) violence from occurring and is enacted by individuals who observe a potentially harmful situation (also referred to in Prevention). A training programme for active bystanders includes practices for intervening when they witness such behaviours. Counselling and psychological support for bystanders should be in place as they may also experience symptoms of trauma, such as anxiety, depression and flashbacks. Bystanders may feel guilt or responsibility for not having been able to intervene or prevent the violence they witnessed. Psychological support and counselling can help them come to terms with what they experienced.

Perpetrator treatment and rehabilitation programmes: The primary goal of rehabilitation is to prevent perpetrators from repeating their violent behaviour. Rehabilitation programmes can provide education and support to help individuals understand why their attitudes and beliefs are harmful, and to change them. In addition, such programmes promote accountability and a sense of responsibility for one’s acts. By addressing the root causes of gender-based violence and helping perpetrators to change their behaviour, rehabilitation programmes can contribute to a safer campus environment. They can serve as alternative sanctions, on the condition that the safety of the survivor(s) is and can remain ensured.

Tips and Hints / Dos and Don'ts

  • For the effective provision of services and immediate support, it is good if a centralised unit within the institution is responsible for overseeing the services offered. Such unit can serve as ‘hub’ or ‘dispatching unit’;
  • If the institution has more than one main campus, ensure that at least one (emergency) service and support officer is available in all sites;
  • Services should be capable of addressing all forms of gender-based violence;
  • Offer an easily accessible booking system for appointments with the service staff, for in-person or virtual meetings. Find a good example of the University of Glasgow here;
  • Offer the option to report an incident anonymously. Find an example of an anonymous form here;
  • Offer psychological support to contact persons, whistle blowers and bystanders, acknowledging the importance of addressing secondary trauma and caring for their mental health;
  • Access to services should be available regardless of the timeframe of the incident (for example, when an incident is reported months after it happened);
  • Provide first aid guidance on the unit’s and institutional website in case of an incident happening outside working hours. Find a good example here, offered by the University of the West of Scotland;
  • In addition to information for bystander intervention practices, provide a short guide for friends of victims/survivors on how they can act as supporters. Find a good example here, offered by the University of the West of Scotland;
  • The provision of mediation services is controversial, as it can be retraumatising for victims/survivors to be confronted with their perpetrator. Mediation should never be mandatory but can be offered as an option. In any case, the needs and expectations of the victim/complainant should prevail, no pressure should be exercised to steer the victim towards mediation, and both parties should be on an equal footing (see Protection Tips and Hints). An option may be that each party is assisted by a separate counsellor and that these counsellors work bilaterally towards a mediated solution.

Thinking intersectionally about Provision of services

  • Put in place a diverse support team a person of colour or member of the LGBTQIA+ community may feel more at ease when speaking to someone they can relate to. Consider building partnerships with external services/non-governmental organisations that can support in inclusive representation;
  • When tendering and contracting external services, ensure that contractors are sensitive to the needs of people and groups more at risk of gender-based and intersectional violence;
  • Having a choice of service providers from different genders can be important for individuals who have experienced trauma, or who may feel more comfortable discussing certain issues with or being examined by a provider of a specific gender;
  • In the reporting form, consider including questions such as “Do you feel that any of the following factors may have played a role in the incident?” and give options such as gender, age, disability/impairment, ethnicity/race and more. For every term used (either for the form of gender-based violence or identity characteristic) provide a short definition. Find a good example of an intersectionality-sensitive anonymous reporting form here;
  • When providing training to staff and students, it is important to develop their understanding of intersectionality in gender-based violence, as well as the experiences of groups who face multiple forms of discrimination. This will help them to support and assist those affected by gender-based violence in a more sensitive and inclusive manner;
  • Violence being a form of discrimination, empowerment training can be offered to students who have experienced discriminations, providing them with tools to assert themselves in the face of discrimination and promoting a culture of inclusivity and diversity on campus;
  • Ensure that support pathways and references to support services include instances for specific groups. Find examples of services addressed to a particular group, here;
  • For mobile students and staff, hold mandatory information days before they go on exchange/field trip/conferences abroad including information on where to find support, with contacts for associations and services providing support. This information could be included in a “protection package” with additional guidance on culture-specific aspects of the country visited;
  • Make information on the existing support services available in English.

Inspiring practices

Advice Place – University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The Edinburgh University Students’ Association provides support services for victims and offenders through the Advice Place office, an independent and confidential advisory service which can also offer information on a wide range of issues, including gender-based violence. The services include educational resources, self-care and well-being information, and a wide range of contacts to external service providers. The Advice Place website also offers information for people accused of a crime – the procedure followed and the academic consequences of a criminal charge. The academic consequences refer only to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Emergency Taxi Scheme & Alarm System – University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The Edinburgh University Students’ Association runs an Emergency Taxi Scheme that students can use if they find themselves stranded in the city. It also provides guidance on how to stay safe at night while in the city and provides a free personal safety alarm available at the Advice Place. These alarms create a loud noise when activated and can be carried discreetly when walking.

Help desk against gender-based violence – University of Bologna, Italy

The University of Bologna offers a wide range of services to university stakeholders, including language trainers and research fellows. These include online support programmes, initial orientation and basic information on the legal aspects and on the most appropriate ways to contact the competent authorities, and liaison with the network of services and specialised local associations to deal with more complex situations that require a multidisciplinary intervention.

Capacity-building programmes for staff and students – Active*Consent – University of Galway, Ireland

The Active*Consent programme, led by the University of Galway, offers training and professional development for educators at post-primary school and university level, student leaders and adult professionals tackling societal issues like consent, sexual violence and harassment. The team offers original consent education and training resources including workshops, eLearning modules, educational videos, and social media campaigns for colleges, schools, and sports organisations. The training programmes on Facilitating Consent Discussions and on First Point of Contact are addressed to staff and student leaders, and provide skills and knowledge on how to deal appropriately with disclosure of sexual violence, thus increasing awareness of its causes and effects.

Resources and further reading

Database of Rehabilitation Programmes for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence – European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence

The European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence programme database provides an overview of existing programmes working with perpetrators of domestic violence in Europe. The basis for the database was developed during the IMPACT project in 2013. Explore further.