Membership Spotlight: Jo Blair
Jo Blair, Scotland Regional Representative highlights awareness of Gender Based Violence
On Thursday, 27th September 2018, an initiative launched in Scotland to introduce support cards to inform team members who receive disclosures of Gender Based Violence (GBV) with a guide on what to do and what support network is available. Supported by the Scottish Government, Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney as well as two other cabinet members were present and ASRA were invited!
Over 100,000 cards have been printed and distributed to every college and university, as well as every Unite students property across Scotland so that staff can have details of the national, specialist support services readily available. The cards fit into wallets, purses and staff ID badges. It is hoped that awareness of the cards will encourage victims of gender based violence to disclose their experience to someone they feel comfortable speaking to, knowing that they will be believed and receive the right support.
The card design and copy was tested with focus groups of students, staff and the project sought the views of survivors of gender based violence. The cards complement work to tackle gender-based violence led by colleges and universities across Scotland and the support provided by the Equally Safe Toolkit for higher education, launched in March this year. The support cards and digital assets circulated across Scotland also provide a six-step guide for staff on how to handle a disclosure of gender based violence; the disclosure guidance is taken from the Equally Safe Toolkit.
After some words from the Principle of Edinburgh Napier University and the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, we heard from Fiona Drouet.
Her daughter, Emily tragically took her life having experienced a campaign of gender based violence whilst a student at university. Listening to Fiona and seeing the exchange of messages sent between Emily and her boyfriend was not only heart breaking, but also incredibly powerful. From this, Fiona founded the #emilytest in her memory. It has been instrumental in the creation of the cards.
We have known for a long time that a student living within our residences is more than a traditional landlord and resident transaction. It is an impacting and long lasting relationship where we get to know many of our students, their boyfriends and girlfriends, as well as their family members well. To see, not only the Scottish government, also Higher Education institutions publicly take a stand is brilliant. Not only making incidents of Gender Based Violence unacceptable, but to work in collaboration with students to empower teams at all levels in guiding victims to the correct support structures is the first of many steps needed to help survivors get their lives and in many cases identities back.
Professor Andrea Nolan, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal of Edinburgh Napier University said:
“The cards are a practical step in supporting staff with this responsibility, recognising that anyone could receive a disclosure but not everyone will have received specialist training. The cards complement the training and other activities that universities have in place to tackle gender based violence. We are pleased we could help to realise this goal of the #EmilyTest Campaign and glad that this resource is available in every university and college across the country.
“Every student and member of staff at university has a right to feel safe and respected and everyone has a responsibility to support that environment. We want everyone to know that they can seek help from any member of staff, if they are experiencing something that doesn’t feel right to them; they will be believed and will quickly receive the right support.”
Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Richard Lochhead MSP said:
“Tackling violence against women and girls and the attitudes that help perpetuate it are key priorities for the Scottish Government. It is vital that we work with universities and colleges to ensure they are places where students are safe to live, study and research. The support cards launched today will empower university staff to support students and provide advice on where they can access help. This an important step towards fostering a culture that is clear in its condemnation of gender based violence and gives staff and students the confidence to report unacceptable behaviour.”
Commenting at the launch of the cards, Fiona Drouet, founder of the #EmilyTest Campaign said:
“I hope the support cards will help to bridge gaps and, if used effectively, have the potential to save lives. This is a positive step towards safeguarding students and staff alike. While many students will hopefully benefit from the increased awareness this new tool provides, staff are currently vulnerable to receiving disclosures with the absence of appropriate training.
“I believe this practical tool will give staff something powerful to offer to students needing urgent help and support. The aim of the card is not a solution or a fix all, but to empower staff when handling a disclosure. Statistics show us that a supportive and understanding response to a disclosure is vital. Encountering a dismissive response often escalates self-blame and substantially reduces the chance of the victim/survivor ever seeking further help.