The Intervention Initiative at UWE

Guest post by Rachel Fenton from the University of the West of England (UWE)

Public Health England has commissioned and partnered with UWE, Bristol, to produce an educational resource to be used by universities and colleges for the prevention of sexual coercion and domestic abuse in student populations.

As an evidence-based bystander programme, the Intervention Initiative facilitates primary, secondary and tertiary prevention by working with the whole community of students and working to prevent harms from being perpetrated in the first place, in preference to dealing with the aftermath of incidents that occur. In addition, the Intervention Initiative equips students with analytical, leadership and professional communication skills for life and encourages an enhanced sense of social responsibility enabling them able to challenge social norms which both facilitate abuse, and which impede intervention.

The evidence suggests that meaningful, lasting attitude or behaviour change rarely occur as a result of one-off interventions such as a single workshop. The Intervention Initiative uses public health grounded evidence that prevention programmes need to be theory-driven, repeated over time, use well- trained facilitators, ensure that coverage is comprehensive and socio-culturally relevant, and utilise varied teaching methods.

The Intervention Initiative takes a positive approach, encouraging all students to be active bystanders, standing up against sexual and domestic violence and abuse in their community. The multi-disciplinary academic team (from law, criminology, social psychology and community activism) have worked closely in partnership with students in the development of the resources. A comprehensive campus-based strategy is built around – and can only work in the presence of – consistent reinforcement of positive norms within the student community led by students themselves in addition to clear institutional buy-in.

UWE students have created an anti-abuse network and have gained White Ribbon status for the University. The student network will continue to produce social marketing materials and run hard-hitting campaigns. Furthermore UWE students have made a film in support of the Intervention Initiative. Long-term institutional commitment is illustrated by, among other things, a sustainability committee working to ensure that every student at UWE will have completed the Intervention Initiative programme. Public Health England will be publishing the literature review and the sustainability committee’s report.

This year every first year law student at UWE is completing the Intervention Initiative as part of their curriculum and the project team are running a controlled evaluation funded by Public Health England.

All the materials and the theoretical rationale, which sets out the theory and the pedagogy underpinning the programme, are freely available online to download and use. The team are also actively seeking research partners to join in further longitudinal research and evaluation. Please use the form on the website if you are interested.