UK (Oxford Brookes University) Gender-based violence surveyed in 46 European universities and research organisations

New research conducted by a Europe-wide consortium, including academics from Oxford Brookes University, has found that since starting work or study at their institution, nearly two in three students and staff responding to the UniSAFE survey have experienced at least one form of gender-based violence.

Between January to May 2022, staff and students (aged 18 and older) from 46 research organisations and universities across 15 countries in Europe participated in the UniSAFE survey, which addresses gender-based violence (GBV) in academia. With over 42,000 responses, it is the largest survey conducted so far in the European Research Area.

The UniSAFE project is a multi-level research collaboration between nine European partners, including academics from Oxford Brookes University.

A comprehensive understanding of gender-based violence

Academics involved in conducting the research took a holistic approach to investigating GBV, and focused on capturing gendered experiences of violence, whether physical, sexual psychological, or economic, and online forms of GBV.

Dr Anke Lipinsky from the GESIS-Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Germany led the UniSAFE survey and said: “Gender-based violence is a systemic problem that affects academic institutions no less than other parts of society. The data we gathered with the prevalence survey clearly shows that gender-based violence happens everywhere and to all genders.

“Our dataset helps to better understand the size and impact of the problem in academia. The projects’ cooperating universities have taken an important step by showing openness to evidence-based development of countermeasures. I am very pleased that with the survey we can promote this development in a data-driven way.”

Nearly two in three respondents have experienced gender-based violence

Overall, results show that 62% of the survey respondents have experienced at least one form of GBV since they started working or studying at their institution. Women (66%) and non-binary people (74%) were more likely than men to experience all forms of GBV, except for physical violence which more non-binary people and men indicated.

Moreover, respondents who identify as LGBQ+ (68%), who reported a disability or chronic illness (72%), and those belonging to an ethnic minority group (69%) were more likely to have experienced at least one incident of gender-based violence, compared to those who do not identify with these characteristics.

“I knew that there would be many people that experienced gender-based violence, but I was really taken aback by the scale of the problem with about two-in-three stating that they have experienced at least one form of gender-based violence,” stated Professor Anne Laure Humbert, Co-Director of the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice at Oxford Brookes University.

“I was also expecting non-binary people and people from the LGBQ+ communities to be disproportionately affected. With such a large number of responses to this survey, we are now able to provide data and evidence that can be used to tackle the issue.”

One in three respondents have experienced sexual harassment

Psychological violence is reported as the most prevalent form of violence (57%). In addition, almost one in three students and staff say they have experienced sexual harassment within their institution (31%), whereas 6% of respondents have experienced physical violence, and 3% sexual violence. One in ten respondents reported that their work or studies have been harmed by economic violence.

Low reporting of gender-based violence

Among respondents who had experienced gender-based violence, only 13% reported it.

Almost half of the victims (47%) explained that they felt uncertain whether the behaviour was serious enough to be disclosed. Another frequent reason indicated by 31% of the victims is that at the time of the incident they did not identify the behaviour as an act of violence.

The full report from the survey can be found on the UniSAFE website.

UniSAFE aims to support higher education, research organisations and policymakers in eradicating gender-based violence in the Europe research area. The project produces in-depth knowledge on gender-based violence in research organisations and universities by analysing its prevalence, social determinants, antecedents, and consequences on national, organisational, and individual levels. The anonymised data issued from the survey will be closely analysed alongside results from in-depth interviews of early-career researchers, a set of institutional case studies, as well as an assessment of policy and legal frameworks. This information will feed into the development of a multilevel analysis report, publicly available in December 2022.

By Autumn 2023, the project will result in a set of policy recommendations and operational tools to be taken up by higher education and research institutions.