top of page

News + Comment

The Joint Forum: Partnership working to tackle sexual violence and harassment in Bristol

Bristol's Joint Forum Against Sexual Violence and Harassment was established in July 2015. Forerunners of the group include the University of Bristol's Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Judith Squires and the University of West England's Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane Harrington. Both are members of Bristol Women's Commission (BWC), a collective that brings women's voices together to share ideas and expertise, working towards achieving women's equality in Bristol.

In creating the Joint Forum, the founders have brought together: senior university staff; Students' Union representatives; Avon and Somerset Police; the local council; SARSAS and The Bridge – two charities that support survivors of rape and sexual violence; and the Bristol Zero Tolerance project (set up by BWC) that aims to make Bristol a city free from gender-based violence through a range of campaigns and initiatives. The group meet on a quarterly basis to agree upon, discuss and develop a series projects designed to tackle sexual violence and harassment in the city. Many of their initiatives also follow Universities UK guidance on improving support for students in relation to gender-based violence, harassment and hate crime.

Partnership working in this way allows the group to share knowledge and pool resources to more effectively understand and address these issues in Bristol. A key motivation for the founders in establishing the Joint Forum was their sense that it was not always clear how allegations of student sexual harassment and assault should be dealt with; for this reason they have sought to create a working relationship with local police, including having formal data-sharing agreements in place to help manage this issue.

As part of Joint Forum agreements, both universities have measures to help prevent sexual assaults on campus, including running sexual consent workshops and delivering the UniSmart presentation for all new students at the University of Bristol, and providing bystander training to students at the University of West England. The Bridge has also given specialised training to staff at both universities. Meanwhile, the University of Bristol SU are working with the NUS and SARSAS to develop support for sexual assault survivors in student communities, and they encourage students to get involved with Reclaim the Night – a women-only annual march that takes place in cities across the UK to take a stand against sexual violence. UWE SU are involved in initiatives including emergency taxi schemes, Late Night Do It Right (which puts together tips to help students have a fun and safe night out), and End it Now (where student volunteers raise awareness of sexual violence on campus by encouraging students to take a pledge to stand up to it).