The #metoo debate and the events at ETH and the University of Basel have shown that sexual harassment is omnipresent - also at universities. According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, every second woman has experienced sexual harassment. Men are also affected by sexual harassment, although this issue is an ongoing taboo. The SUB survey of 2017 showed that one in ten students at the University of Bern has experienced behaviour that falls under sexual harassment. The SUB fights all forms of discrimination and is committed to the protection and integrity of all. Individual boundaries must be respected and adhered to.
Sexual harassment is defined as any behaviour with a sexual connotation that is perceived by the affected person as unwanted and transgressive. It is important to highlight that sexual harassment is characterized not by the intention of the acting person, but rather by the way the targeted person perceives, receives or feels about this behavior. It can occur in words, gestures or deeds. Sexual harassment often involves the exercise of power and dominance. The sexual dimension comes to the fore because victims are particularly vulnerable in this area. Therefore, it is often difficult for the affected persons to defend themselves.
The SUB takes every report seriously and decides on the further course of action in each individual case. Since we do not have counselling competences in cases of sexual harassment, we have a triage function and provide information about the official contact points. If the person concerned wants us to, we accompany them in this process.
We draw attention to the contact points of the university and the counselling centre of the universities in Bern with various campaigns. On the national day of action against sexual harassment at universities in 2019, an awareness workshop was organised. "Awareness" describes a concept that deals with problems in connection with disregard for physical, psychological and personal boundaries and even violence in public spaces. Awareness aims to find a way to name discrimination and transgressive behaviour and to actively counteract this behaviour. People who feel affected are supported and accompanied. The concept was implemented at the Women*'s Strike and at the CAMPUS Festival.
Students have various possibilities to defend themselves as targeted persons against sexual harassment or to stand up for affected persons. On the one hand, the SUB wants to support targeted students to take courage and act. On the other hand, the SUB wants to encourage students who observe an incident to pay attention and take action.
As a member of the University of Bern, there are various contact points in the event of sexual harassment. All counselling centres offer free advice and support. Reporting sexual harassment is important to set an example and make these incidents visible. Because: Every incident of sexual harassment is one too many!
The Counselling Centre Universities of Bern is the external contact point of the University of Bern for students and employees. The contact persons are bound to confidentiality and professional secrecy. They will only initiate further steps if this is explicitly requested. The counselling centre provides information about possible courses of action and accompanies discussions with those involved. The contact person is Pia Thormann, a psychologist for psychotherapy FSP, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Within the University of Bern, managers and the official internal contact points are subject to the duty to act. This means that incidents must be reported and action must be taken. Amongst others, The Office for Gender Equality is responsible for prevention and advice on how to proceed.