Public Health England (PHE), the government agency tasked with protecting and improving the nation’s health and wellbeing, has recently launched two new initiatives to tackle sexual harassment and domestic violence in universities and workplaces. This is in response to growing concern about the prevalence of such incidents and the research findings of several different investigative bodies such as the National Union of Students (NUS), Varsity and the CUSU Women’s campaign.

The first initiative focuses on universities. PHE are working with the University of the West of England for the ‘Intervention Initiative’, which aims to develop bystander awareness and encourage people who witness instances of sexual harassment or abuse to speak out and intervene. The head of development for the eight week program, Dr. Rachel Fenton, described it:

The Intervention Initiative works by educating students to recognise and understand sexual and domestic violence and take active steps when they witness problematic behaviour. It takes a positive approach, encouraging all students to be active bystanders, standing up against any form of violence or abuse in their community.

Other universities and colleges can download the educational toolkit that contains all the materials for the program to spread it across higher education institutions. An NUS investigation discovered that 37% of women and 12% of men had faced unwelcome sexual advances. Female students at university have a greater than one in three chance of suffering sexual assault during their time there. It is hoped that the initiative will change attitudes across the student body and begin to dismantle a culture that accepts sexually aggressive behaviour towards women.

The second initiative focuses on workplaces and educating employers on how to handle cases of sexual harassment and domestic abuse. This will be especially helpful to small businesses that lack official infrastructure to deal with cases amongst their employees. Similar to the Intervention Initiative, a step by step guide will instruct employers how to educate their employees and raise awareness, as well as how to spot cases that may not be obvious and how to handle them. Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at PHE spoke about the initiative:

It is unacceptable that in England and Wales, 2 women a week die as a result of domestic violence, and many more suffer physical and mental harm. Workplaces are a safe space for many people living in violence and are key for providing opportunities for disclosure and support into safety. As it stands, companies can do more to support their employees who experience domestic abuse, train those who witness, and protect staff as a whole. Signing up to the pledge and using the toolkit not only means businesses are supporting their staff and securing safety in the workplace, but they will also save on financial loss due to absence and turnover. It is a win win for businesses and we urge them to utilise this resource.

If you have suffered or are suffering either domestic violence or sexual abuse, we can help you. Beecham Peacock has a great deal of experience dealing with these cases. Get in touch today for completely confidential, understanding and supportive help and advice.

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