A social and educational imperative: How can we prevent sexual violence and support victims at universities in Serbia?

Written by Bejan Šaćiri

This innovative project will go a long way towards improving the capacity of Serbian universities to effectively respond to sexual violence, and support victims. Effective victim identification, care and support programs can help reduce levels of violence and prevent secondary victimization.

Read in Spanish and French.

Research globally shows high levels of sexual violence in higher education institutions,[1],[2],[3] with young women more exposed to sexual violence than young men.[4],[5]. Sexual violence encompasses a wide range of acts: from verbal comments and requests, non-verbal displays, quid pro quo acts, unwanted physical contact to rape. It has serious consequences for the mental and physical health of students, including their academic achievements.[6],[7] Limited studies suggest the occurrence of sexual violence in Serbian universities, but the topic is not well researched[8],[9]. Serbian universities are often underequipped to identify and effectively respond to sexual violence, placing students who report sexual violence at risk of secondary victimization. In addition to the lack of services on campus, survivors are also unaware of available victim support services in the community. One recent study found that two thirds of the respondents would have asked for help, if there had been a mechanism/service at the faculty to support students.[10] As a result, cases of sexual violence went unreported.

Sexual violence at universities in Serbia: Raising awareness and developing innovative mechanisms of victim support

Sexual violence at universities in Serbia: Raising awareness and developing innovative mechanisms of victim support is a project of the Victimology Society of Serbia-VDS, supported by the Sexual Violence Research Initiative and the World Bank Group through the Development Marketplace Award for Innovation in the Prevention and Response of Gender Based Violence. The project aims to significantly contribute to raising awareness of sexual violence at Serbian universities and improving institutional responses to this form of (gender-based) violence. The first step within the project is to gather data on sexual violence at universities in Serbia. The research to be conducted will present a combination of the victimization survey and a self-report delinquency study. It will be conducted on a sample of university students in four university centers in Serbia. The research will provide information on the prevalence, incidence, characteristics and consequences of sexual violence against students. It will also try to get insights into sexual violence committed by students towards their inmates or university staff. The data will inform development of an intervention comprising three interlinked components: building capacity of university staff to identify and respond to sexual violence survivors and refer them to available services; establishing a dialogue with universities on strengthening existing policies and practices related to sexual violence; and establishing a network and cooperation among universities and victim support services in the community in order to secure timely support for victims. This innovative project will go a long way towards improving the capacity of Serbian universities to effectively respond to sexual violence, and support victims. Effective victim identification, care and support programs can help reduce levels of violence and prevent secondary victimization.

Central role of women’s rights organisations in providing survivor care and support

Women rights organisations (WROs) are key partners in this project as they form an essential part of the referral network for survivors. WROs have extensive expertise and experience in providing assistance and support to victims of violence in general and women victims of sexual violence, in particular. Victim support service, which has been run by the Victimology Society of Serbia since 2003 - VDS Info and Victim Support – is part of this network. It provides services to violence survivors, including survivors of sexual violence.

VDS Info and Victim Support offers support to both survivors and members of victims’ families, as well as other people affected by a crime or harmful event. Victims receive information about their rights and how to exercise them, emotional support, referral, witness support, and support for contacting state institutions. VDS Info and Victim Support Service’s principles are: respect for victims and their dignity, needs and feelings; commitment to uphold victim’s rights; trust, and confidentiality.

The VDS links theory, research, and practice in developing and advocating for innovative mechanisms to effectively and efficiently prevent and respond to sexual violence. Through this study, the VDS team of professionals will use evidence to create Serbian tertiary institutions that are safe learning spaces for all young men and women free from all forms of sexual violence.

#16Days2020

#GBVSolutions

#SVRIResearchGrant

www.facebook.com/viktimolosko.srbije/

www.instagram.com/viktimoloskodrustvosrbije/

Short bio of author

Dr Bejan Šaćiri (Ph.D. in psychology) is a researcher in the Victimology Society of Serbia and coordinator of the VDS victim suport service. He is also a senior lecturer at the Medical College of Applied Studies “Milutin Milanković“ (Belgrade, Serbia). His research focuses on domestic violence, discrimination, female offenders in prison, psychology of marriage and family, and professional ethics in psychology. He also works  as an individual and marital counseling.

 

[1]Kearney, L. K., Gilbert, L. A. (2012) The Role of Ethnicity in Mexican American and Non Hispanic White Students’ Experience of Sexual Harassment. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 34(4), pp. 507-524

[2]Rademakers, J. J., van den Muijsenbergh, M. E., Slappendel, G., Lagro-Janssen, A. L. M., Borleffs, J. C. C. (2008) Sexual Harassment During Clinical Clerkships in Dutch Medical Schools. Medical Education, 5, str. 452–458.

[3] McMahon, S., Wood, L., Cusano, J., and Macri, L. M. (2018) Campus Sexual Assault: Future Directions for Research. Sexual Abuse, pp. 1–26.

[4]Sivertsen, B., Nielsen M. B., Madsen I. E. H., Knapstad, M., Lønning, K. J., Hysing, M (2019) Sexual harassment and assault among university students in Norway: a cross-sectional prevalence study. BMJ Open; 9:e026993.

[5] Bondestam, F. & Lundqvist, M. (2020) Sexual harassmentin higher education – a systematic review. European Journal of Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/21568235.2020.1729833, https://doi.org/10.1080/21568235.2020.1729833.

[6]Huerta, M., Cortina, L. M., Pang, J., Torges, C., Magley, V. (2006) Sex and Power in the Academy: Modeling Sexual Harassment in the Lives of College Women. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 32, str. 616-628.

[7] Ogbonnaya LU, Ogbonnaya CE, Emma-Echiegu NB. (2011). Prevalence of sexual harassment/victimization of female students in Ebonyi State University Abakaliki, southeast Nigeria. Journal of Community Medicine and Primary Health Care.;23(1&2):56–57.

[8]Dimitrijević, A., Mladenović, M. (2017) Seksualno uznemiravanje studenata: Rezultati istraživanja (Sexual Harassment ­of­  Students­–­Survey­Results). Temida, 2, pp. 291-309

[9]Autonomni ženski centar (2018) Percepcija i iskustvo mladih u vezi sa seksualnim uznemiravanjem. Autonomni ženski centar

[10]Dimitrijević, A., Mladenović, M. (2017) Seksualno uznemiravanje studenata: Rezultati istraživanja (Sexual Harassment ­of­  Students­–­Survey­Results). Temida, 2, pp. 291-309

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
2 + 3 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.