Did you know that at least 25% of women within the EU have been victims of sexual harassment within their university context? That means that 1 out of 4 women, which translates into millions, have experienced behaviours like the usage of offensive language against them. Or have been having to cope with unwelcome attention of a sexual nature. Or have been exposed to unwanted attempts to change a professional relationship to a personal relationship from a supervisor or professor. Or have been facing terrible attacks such as assault or rape. And the list of horrifying acts goes on.

In order to tackle these undesirable situations for our young generations, the first step we must take is to recognise the issue and become fully aware of what’s happening. Each of us can take action and become an active bystander, which precisely means being aware of when someone’s behaviour is inappropriate or threatening – and choosing to challenge it.

Not only us as individuals can do our part and stand by the victims of such acts. A lot can be done from the schools, universities and institutions. We recommend these to develop strong anti-sexual harassment policies and specific codes of conduct. Also, they should:

  • Create and foster education programmes based on prevention, awareness-raising campaigns on the matter.
  • Do regular training and provide resources, for both students and the staff.
  • Develop a complaints mechanism that ensures confidentiality and safety when reporting an incident.
  • Appoint at least one counsellor (or team, if possible) within the institution.

From a communications and leadership perspective, we encourage boards, teachers and professors to:

  • Consistently communicate and enforce a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual misconduct.
  • Promote gender equality and inclusion in all forms of communication.
  • Challenge stereotypes in both internal and external institutional messages.
  • Develop campaigns & educational resources that promote positive social norms and inclusive attitude changes.

Would you like to dive deeper into this topic? Download this free PDF on how to prevent harassment and sexual misconduct in the university context.