Networks of Solidarity: Student mobilizations against sexual violence in universities
Author(s)Vidu Afloarei, Ana
Ciències Jurídiques, Econòmiques i Socials
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AbstractAccording to the United States Department of Justice (Krebs et al., 2016), 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in college. Gender-based violence occurring in universities and on university campuses is an issue researched at the international level, especially in the United States (Coker et al., 2016). Several social and student movements have been working in different parts of the world to prevent and overcome this problem. Their influence has created situations favorable to the establishment of institutional measures and specific laws to address gender-based violence at universities. Nevertheless, the role of social movements and their contributions to the prevention of gender violence in institutes of higher education has not received much academic attention.
In Spain, the first study that analyzed gender violence in Spanish universities (Valls, 2005-2008) concluded that 62% of university students knew of or had experienced sexual harassment situations at their colleges. This research project inspired several publications in scientific journals such as Violence Against Women (Valls, Puigvert, Melgar & Garcia-Yeste, 2016).
This dissertation analyzes the role of student movements in relation to preventing and overcoming gender violence in the university context, focusing on one of such complaints in Spain, which occurred at the University of Barcelona (also refereed here as UB) in 2011. The dissertation examines the contributions of the Solidarity Network of Victims of Gender Violence at Universities (also referred here as Solidarity Network) the first initiative that emerged "from below" in Spain, created in late 2013 by victims of sexual violence in the Spanish academy and by the people who supported them: university members who often became the victims of second order harassment (Dziech & Weiner, 1990). The need for peer support is also emphasized throughout the dissertation, highlighting the bystander intervention (Banyard et al., 2005) as an effective response.
At a comparative level, this study also analyzes the process of one of the first American sexual harassment complaints against a faculty member, which was made in 1979 at the University of California, Berkeley (also referred here as UC Berkeley or UCB). To continue the comparison, previous solidarity networks in American universities are examined, such as the WOASH (Women Organized Against Sexual Harassment), and the EROC (End Rape on Campus), the latter created in 2013 by survivors of sexual violence in college. These facts are analyzed to present evidence on the contribution of student movements in overcoming gender violence in universities.
The methodological paradigm used in this dissertation is focused on a qualitative approach, especially the portraiture method (Lightfoot, 1981) and the communicative methodology of research (Puigvert, 2014), which has been validated by several research projects and highly relevant scientific publications that present the results of daily life stories and in-depth interviews with victims, faculty members and institutional representatives.
The results of this dissertation show that the mobilizations of the victims and those who support them and dare to take their side have an important impact on both raising awareness regarding this problem and in the transformation of existing university structures. According to the findings, by doing this, survivors and their supporters contribute to the shaping of universities that take a stand in preventing and responding to gender violence, thereby becoming better able to protect the victims and moving closer to the goal of being free of sexual violence.