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Gender Based Violence

Gender Based Violence (GBV) includes a range of behaviours which are recognised in Scottish society as being both the cause and consequence of gender inequality. GBV is largely, although not exclusively, perpetrated by men and experienced by women.

GBV is recognised as a society wide issue, which means that University staff and students will both be victims and perpetrators. As many as one in four female students have reported unwanted sexual behaviour while at University around the UK and it is detailed in the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women document that women and girls are disproportionately affected by domestic abuse, sexual violence and other forms of violence committed mainly by men.

It is acknowledged that, although GBV mostly affects women and men are, in the main perpetrators, it can also affect individuals of any age, gender, sexual orientation, faith or ethnicity.

Gender Based Violence includes (but is not limited to):

  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family (including against children and young people), within the general community or in institutions, including domestic abuse or intimate partner abuse, rape, and incest
  • Sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation in any public or private space, including work
  • Commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution, lap dancing, stripping, pornography and trafficking
  • Child sexual abuse, including familial sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation and online abuse
  • So called 'honour based' violence, including dowry related violence, female genital mutilation, forced and child marriages, and 'honour' crimes

To find out more about what universities and colleges are doing to tackle Gender Based Violence, visit the Equally Safe in Universities & Colleges (ESCU) website, where you can view the ESCU toolkit.

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is more than just rape. The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 covers a range of behaviours which constitute sexual violence, such as

  • Penetration of the vagina or anus by parts of the body (such as a finger) or objects (such as a bottle or a vibrator)
  • Being forcibly touched in a sexual manner
  • Ejaculating semen onto a person
  • Forcing or coercing someone to have sex with someone else
  • Being forced to look at pornography

Sexual harassment is also linked to sexual violence and includes behaviour of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, embarrassing, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the recipient. A common example of this is hearing unwanted sexual talk or being called sexual names.

Statistics from NHS Health Scotland have shown that 20% of women and 4% of men experience sexual assault as adults (aged 16 to 59). Most sexual violence is carried out by someone known to the victim such as spouses, intimate partners, friends, family members and/or colleagues. In 87% of cases of serious sexual assault against women, the victim knew the perpetrator and over half of these were committed by their partner.

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual or financial in nature and includes intimidation/threats from a current or previous partner or family members. In April 2019 Scotland also introduced new legislation within the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act that criminalises psychological domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour.  

It’s important to remember that it can affect anyone; domestic abuse is fundamentally about coercion/control, and it can occur in any relationship at any time. Although women are disproportionately affected by domestic abuse, both women and men can be the abused or abusers. It is also important to note that domestic abuse can happen within relationships involving people of any age; it is not something that only happens within married relationships, for example.

Domestic abuse can look like things such as:  

  • Withholding money or preventing someone from earning money
  • Taking control over aspects of someone's everyday life, which can include where they go and what they wear
  • Not letting someone leave the house or see friends/family
  • Reading emails, text messages or letters
  • Threatening to kill or harm them, a partner, another family member or pet

Police in Scotland recorded 59,541 incidents of domestic abuse during 2017-2018, 35% occurring on a Saturday or Sunday. Although the majority of incidents involved a female victim and male accused (81%) 16% of incidents were male victim and female accused.

What is honour-based violence?

There is no statutory definition of Honour-Based Violence or specific offence linked to it, rather it is an umbrella term to encompass various offences covered by existing legislation. The Home Office adopt the definition that it is a crime or incident which has or may have been committed to protect or defend honour of the family and/or community.

Honour based violence can came in many forms as a means to ‘restore honour’ and can include sexual and psychological abuse, physical assault, abduction and murder. All cultures, nationalities, faith groups and communities can be affected by this but it is shown that women are particularly at risk. 

What is forced marriage?

Forced marriage is when one or both parties do not, or cannot in the case of children or some adults with learning or physical disabilities, consent to the marriage. They may face physical pressure to marry (such as threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (e.g. if you’re made to feel like you’re bringing shame on your family).

During 2018 the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support related to possible forced marriage in 1,196 cases across the UK.

If you or someone you know is being forced to marry, or is already in a forced marriage, the law in Scotland provides criminal and civil protection. The individual at risk, or a third party on an individual’s behalf, can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO). An FMPO aims to protect people threatened with, or already in, a forced marriage.

It’s important to remember that a forced marriage is different from an arranged marriage. With an arranged marriage both parties give their full and free consent to their union but families take a leading role in choosing a partner.

What is female genital mutilation (FGM)?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines Female Genital Mutilation as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organ for non-medical reasons. It has no health benefits and only causes harm by removing or damaging healthy genital tissue.

FGM is a cultural practice, the origins of which are complex and go back thousands of years. There is a commonly-held misconception that it is a religious requirement but in fact it does not hold a basis in any religion, generally it is seen as a rite of passage to adulthood and a prerequisite for marriage. 

FGM has been unlawful in Scotland since 1985 and in 2016 a national action plan was developed in Scotland to prevent and eradicate FGM. WHO have recorded that over 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut or undergone some form of FGM.

What is online/social media abuse of a sexual nature?

This describes any attempt to harass (or any behaviour that results in the harassment of) another individual or individuals via an online platform - including email, apps and social media - through the use of sexual content. Sexual content might include the use of offensive language, imagery, photographs or video material.

What is the unauthorised sharing of private/intimate images?

This describes sharing any intimate or sexualised images of another person without their explicit consent to do so. In Scotland, if someone has shared private images or videos of you, or is threatening to share them, this is a crime. In the UK, taking or sharing intimate images or videos of anyone under 18 is child abuse and also a criminal offence. You can find out more about intimate image abuse and the law on the Revenge Porn Helpline website.

What is stalking?

Stalking is unwanted, repeated, obsessive and/or controlling behaviours that make someone distressed or scared. There are many ways stalking can be perpetrated and it is most likely to be someone the recipient knows well such as an ex-partner.

What is spiking?

“Spiking” is when someone is given alcohol or drugs without their consent. Being spiked is never the fault of the victim. Often we think of spiking as the adding of drugs to a drink, and more recently spiking by injection, however, spiking can also take the form of things like giving someone a different drug to the one they consented to taking or adding additional alcohol to drinks. If you think you or a friend may have been spiked, visit our spiking support page to get advice on what to do.

How to access support

If you would like to access support you just need to complete our short, simple form in our secure Report and Support system. Find out more about the support available.

Woman on phone

In an emergency

If you're away from campus, you should call 999 to reach any of the emergency services.

If you're on campus, call the Security Team any time on 7999 (on an internal phone) or 01786 467999 (from a mobile phone) to request the Police.

If you need an ambulance, dial 999 directly to speak to a call handler. Once you have done so, call the Security Team on 7999 (on an internal phone) or 01786 467999 (from a mobile phone) to advise them that an ambulance will be arriving.