Diverse group of young men and women in a workplace setting

New resources to help staff and students combat sexism and sexual harassment was released today by Victoria’s Minister for Women, Gabrielle Williams.

The bystander resources, developed by VicHealth, draw on research recently completed at Victoria University and the University of Melbourne about how to increase bystander intervention among university students.

VU was motivated to take action after survey results revealed students were concerned about witnessing sexist behaviour, but felt unsure about how to intervene.

In response, VU’s Respect and Responsibility program, in partnership with the VU Student Union, applied for a $50,000 grant from the Community Partnerships for Primary Prevention fund, administered by the Victorian State Government’s Office for Women, to develop an online bystander awareness and action resource.

"We want everyone at VU to feel empowered to act if they encounter sexist and sexually harassing behaviour. We know that intervention is an important step when it comes to changing community attitudes and the long-term prevention of sexism and sexual harassment."

 Marian Cronin, Manager, Respect and Responsibility.

The module was developed by VU’s Respect and Responsibility program and co-designed with a diverse group of VU students — every screen was reviewed and tested with students, and every scenario reflects an experience VU students have either experienced or witnessed.

This element of co-design and co-production led VicHealth and the Behavioural Insights Team to include the VU Bystander Awareness and Action module in their recent study, which showed high levels of engagement among the students who signed up to participate.

The resource consists of:

  • interactive activities
  • instruction in specific techniques to challenge everyday sexism or support someone experiencing harassment
  • student-developed scenarios requiring reflection and response.

VU Physical Education and Sport Science student Elyse Hocking participated in the research trial earlier this year.

“Being part of this highlighted that both men and women are responsible for challenging and changing social norms and attitudes. There are various ways to call out bad behaviour, and it does not always have to be confrontational.”

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