While living in her university halls of residence our daughter Emily was subjected to a campaign of abuse and violence from her boyfriend. Emily tried to get help. Her abuser remained in the same halls of residence where he was able to see her room from his window – her room is where she should have been safe.
On March 17th, 2016, Emily took her own life just minutes after her abuser visited her room unannounced. We are tormented by the “what ifs” – we don’t know if Emily would still be with us if university staff had received adequate training in recognising signs of abuse and had been taught the pathways to follow in such instances but the one thing we do know for certain is that this should not happen to any other young girl, to any other family.
Gender-based violence is not discriminate – it could happen to anybody at any age and we have to raise awareness of this and make sure that students and staff know what to do and where to turn to get help. Our students are vulnerable, often away from the security of home for the first time, and we need to protect them. Please don’t let this happen again – the #emilytest can save lives.
A report published by the National Union of Students (2013) found that 1 in 4 female students reporting unwanted sexual behaviour during their studies and 1 in 5 experiencing sexual harassment during their first week of term. These statistics highlight the scale of the problem across colleges and universities and evidence the need for further action to be taken. Whilst it’s been incredibly positive for the Scottish Government to fund the creation of a toolkit to tackle gender-based violence we want to ensure that both colleges and universities are supported long term to roll out these recommendations and to put their policies and procedures to the #emilytest.