An anonymous reporting app empowers students for social safety
Social safety is incredibly important. A lack of social safety has a great negative impact on study results and mental health. Therefore, it is clearly very important for VU Amsterdam to actively improve social safety on campus. The numbers support this; a report by Amnesty International showed that 11 percent of female and 1 percent of male students were raped during their studies. Numbers for transgressive behaviour in general lay even higher. Much, much higher.
These numbers are shocking as it is, and there’s more. Only 3(!) percent of the students that experienced ‘unwanted penetration’ reports this to their educational institute. Even though the university could, in many cases, offer much-needed support to victims. With these numbers in mind, there is a huge threshold to reporting unwanted and transgressive behaviour.
Reporting is the first, and a crucial, step towards helping students that went through traumatic events
Our council believes this threshold is high because of two factors. First, reaching out to a physical person one doesn’t know is a big step. When people often already don’t reach out to family or friends, how about an unknown person from the university? Secondly, not knowing if one can stay anonymous when reporting makes the threshold significantly bigger. The potential risk of the story spreading, or even reaching the person that assaulted you is rightfully a terrifying feeling.
For the medical faculty, their solution was clear; the zouikwatzeggen-app (roughly translates to should-I-say-something app). In this app, individuals can easily report transgressive behaviour anonymously, without having to directly go into a conversation with a stranger about what happened. This makes reporting much easier to do and has led to more awareness about the topic in the medical faculty.
The organization of VU Amsterdam is not able to help a student experiencing hardship when it doesn’t know it exists. Reporting is the first, and a crucial, step towards helping students that went through traumatic events. Therefore, our council believes that expanding the zouikwatzeggen-app to a VU-wide initiative helps increase social safety on and around our campus.
From a low threshold reporting place like an app, next steps also will take less effort and will feel like less of a step. By communicating, be it anonymous, students can come one step closer to talking about experiences and things they have gone through. By implementing the zouikwatzeggen app, we can come one step closer to being the safe space students need and deserve. So that we can support where possible and where necessary.
Sylke van Kempen