It is an unavoidable fact that not everyone in a given community will feel safe, and for university communities, issues of harassment and assault are particularly pressing. Just this week, it was reported that there has been a 60% increase in racist incidents at UK universities, and recent figures suggest that 3 in 5 students have been sexually harassed or assaulted.
At Durham University, it is understood that these issues cannot be properly addressed without a clearer picture of the problem. To this end, Durham Students' Union created Pincident — an anonymous mapping tool which records experiences of harassment, violence, assault or discrimination, as well as incidences of bystander intervention — which launched this month. Colour coded pins that relate to incident types (e.g disability, LGBT+, racial, religion, sexual) can be placed onto a virtual map of Durham, in order to identify behavioural patterns and help promote positive intervention initiatives. We spoke to Durham SU Welfare and Liberation Officer, Rosa Tallack, to find out more about this work.
Why was the Pincident initiative established?
We recognised there was a need for something more than what was already available for victims of harassment, hate crime, discrimination and assault, and that we couldn’t rely entirely on official reporting as many people don’t take that step. We also acted in response to a Universities UK Changing the Culture report recommendation which said that all universities should ‘take reasonable and practicable steps to implement a centralised reporting system’.
Durham has a prominent focus on sexual violence and misconduct, which we wanted to address, while including other issues such as the growing hate crime in Durham. For these incidents, we were definitely only seeing the tip of the iceberg because many students don’t feel comfortable making an official report.
Who was involved in the development of the initiative?
Pincident is primarily a Durham SU project, but we have worked with and been endorsed by Durham University’s SVMOG (Sexual Violence and Misconduct Operations Group), as well as the county council and the Cohesion Unit at Durham Constabulary.
We have also involved student leaders and peer supporters to develop the tool, and will continue to work closely with them – to receive feedback on what the tool tells us, and make changes accordingly.
What is the advantage in using something like Pincident to record incidents?
People who experience hate crime only report it, on average, the 27th time they experience it. There are lots of barriers to reporting for so many people (see below) and we don’t want those experiences and stories to go unheard – we want to give people the opportunity to feel that those experiences are acknowledged and recorded. The map also uses purple pins to record incidences of bystander intervention; we hope the tool will encourage people to call out this behaviour more often and make the map purple.
Pincident also provides us with as full a picture as possible of the situation, meaning we will be better informed to run more effective projects and campaigns in the future.
It’s important to note that Pincident isn’t necessarily a straight alternative to other methods of reporting or recording, rather an extra option. People might still make an official report, while also recording their experiences on Pincident. The tool does also direct people to a very extensive list of support options, as well as options for reporting. This means Pincident might also act as a stepping stone to making an official report or finding support.
What are some of the barriers students face when reporting and seeking support, following an incident?
On the tool, it’s possible to select a reason why you have not reported the incident, these barriers to reporting may include:
· Not wanting to get into trouble
· Not having time to make a complaint
· Concerns as to how it would affect current/future career
· Being unable to prove that the incident took place
· Worried about repercussions in social circle
· Feeling embarrassed or ashamed
· Worried that the perpetrator might retaliate
· Thinking nothing would be done if a complaint was made
· Feeling partly to blame
· Not knowing how to make a complaint
· Reported it to someone already and wasn’t taken seriously
How will the initiative be promoted to students?
It’s been really important to us to make sure that as many students as possible know about the tool. Not everyone will experience incidents of assault, violence, harassment or discrimination, but we want people to know that if they do, they can record their experiences on Pincident. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve had two giant Google-map-like pin costumes walking around Durham, which have caught people’s attention. We’ve also involved student leaders – our common room presidents, SU reps, welfare officers, Livers-Out reps, and more – who have been volunteering to spend time in the costume, wearing badges, sharing posts on social media etc. We also gave posters to colleges, left leaflets around campus, and shared our own posts and articles on social media explaining what the tool is for. We aim to relaunch the tool in Induction Week 2018 to make next year’s freshers aware that it exists.
What costs were involved in establishing the initiative?
Tackling sexual violence is a key part of the Durham SU strategy, so it’s been important to us to dedicate the time and resources needed to develop this project. We’re moving to increasingly do work on hate crime, which Pincident ties into. This will remain a priority for Durham SU going forward. By using our resources creatively and making use of free tools – for example Google maps and our own internal expertise – we were able to launch the project in a manner we feel has been cost effective.
For more information, visit the Pincident website.
Notes: Indicator 4.5.1 in the Student Harassment & Sexual Assault instrument of the ProtectED Code of Practice requires member universities to provide accessible ways for students to report incidents of cyberbulling, harassment or sexual assault.