The Our Bodies Our Voice (Obov) foundation raises awareness of sexual violence at university. Student chair Noor Assa: ‘We have to work together to break the stigma.’
The mission of the Obov Foundation is to prevent sexual violence by offering workshops and organising events at universities. ‘For example, we held a self-defence meeting and spread our message through social media platforms,’ says student chairwoman Noor Assa (21, Political Science). ‘So many people have experience with sexually transgressive behaviour…This behaviour is still normalised. Apparently there is a lack of awareness. We want to change that.’
The student board recently conducted a survey among 273 students mainly from the UvA. Almost a third of them said they had seen sexually transgressive behaviourat university, and a majority said they had themselves been victims of sexually transgressive behaviour. ‘The percentages may be higher because we distributed the questionnaire through our own channels, reaching out to people involved in this topic,’ said Assa. ‘But we also forwarded the survey to different study associations across all faculties, which also yielded respondents.’ Overall, she says the results are shocking. ‘Clearly this is a big problem.’
Assa is now speaking with university representatives to discuss her findings and the foundation’s ideas on how to improve things. For example, first-year students should have to take acompulsory course on the UvA code of conduct and on social safety, she says.‘This could take place during Intreeweek or implemented in a course such as Academic Skills’. She also believes that online complaints procedures should become more accessible, especially for international students. ‘Filling out the forms as they stand now is mentally exhausting for victims. It should be made easier, as should accessing psychological help.’
The purpose of Obov's student board is not to directly help victims Assa emphasises, but ‘to put the topic on the agenda.’ The next plan: an online event during International Women's Day on March 8. Volunteers can register via firstname.lastname@example.org.