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Sexual violence in higher education: student associations get involved

Support, through a call for projects, student associations at the forefront of the fight against gender-based and sexual violence. This is one of the components of the plan unveiled this Friday, October 15 on France Info by the Minister of Higher Education, Frédérique Vidal. It is about relying on the action of peers to convey prevention messages and get victims to break the silence.

→ READ. Justice investigates sexual violence at CentraleSupélec school

This is what happened at CentraleSupélec where, at the request of the establishment, a survey carried out by an internal association highlighted the extent of the phenomenon. Conducted using an anonymous questionnaire offered to 2,386 students of this prestigious engineering school located in Yvelines, it revealed that 51 women and 23 men were victims of sexual harassment, 46 women and men of a sexual assault and 20 women and 8 men from rape between 2020 and 2021. Facts which occurred in particular in festive contexts or within the student residence.

A national survey of engineering students

Along with the “SciencesPorcs” movement which spread in early 2021 in the Institutes of Political Studies, engineering schools are now also seeking to assess and combat gender-based and sexual violence. A student association, the National Bureau of Engineering Students (BNEI) in fact unveiled in April 2020 the results of a vast survey of more than 2,200 future engineers spread over 143 campuses. Among other alarming figures: 4% of those questioned said they had already “suffered an act of sexual penetration committed with coercion, violence, surprise or threat”.

→ READ. Sexual violence, a survey sheds light on student victims

Most of these rapes (68%) had occurred before entering engineering school. But 25% had occurred during their studies. 10% of the people concerned had been assaulted during an event organized in connection with the school.

In reaction, the BNEI launched Monday, October 11 a “prevention pack”, with interventions in schools, to warn students against sexist and sexual violence but also addictive behavior.

“A taboo is falling”

“A taboo is falling”, rejoices Maëlle Darnis, vice-president of BNEI. But, she nuances, “Much remains to be done to impose zero tolerance within institutions, which sometimes fear seeing their reputation tarnished if cases of sexual violence come to light. “

Progress has also been made with regard to the holidays. “The hazing has disappeared but, under the guise of a welcome or integration evening, certain degrading practices can sometimes continue”, she notes. And festive events, often very alcoholic, remain moments potentially conducive to at least inappropriate behavior.

Also, at Insa Strasbourg, the student office has chosen to form a “VSS team”, trained to fight against gender-based and sexual violence. These students, identifiable thanks to a purple armband hanging on their arm, are intended to ensure the smooth running of the evenings. They must be “Able to react quickly in the event of uneasy situations, sexist outrages, assaults, rapes or non-consent linked to a person’s condition (alcoholic, sleeping, drugged, etc.)”, specifies a message posted on the association’s Facebook account.

An emergency line for victims

For the associations, it is also a question of better supporting the victims, and to begin with, of listening to them better. This is what a listening cell created within Centrale Marseille does and which brings together students and staff members. “Anyone experiencing discomfort, and in particular victims of gender-based or sexual violence, can contact one of us at any time, says Jézabel Cholin, vice-president of the student office. There is also the possibility of dialing the number of an emergency line that we have set up and which refers directly to professionals, psychologists. “

→ CHRONICLE.Sexual violence, up to “Normal Sup ‘”

Endowed with seven million euros, the plan announced by Frédérique Vidal also aims to train and sensitize all actors in higher education to the collection of victims’ words. A specific unit will be created within the ministry to support the latter in filing a complaint.


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