20 March 2023

Addressing sexual harassment

Sexual misconduct is one of the most pressing issues on campus. Simply put, it's time that we, as an institution, open an eye to the uncomfortable truths. It can take many forms, such as sexual harassment, assault, and rape. It can happen anywhere, including at universities, and has devastating effects on the victims: physical and emotional harm, as well as long-term psychological trauma. Sexual misconduct further impacts academic performance and career prospects.

In recent years, there have been reports of sexual misconduct at VU Amsterdam. In 2019, the university found that nearly one in three female students had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their studies at the university. Even more problematic, many students did not feel comfortable reporting incidents of sexual misconduct, and felt there was a lack of awareness among students and staff regarding how to report and prevent sexual misconduct.

A confidential reporting system is an immense step in working to eradicate sexual misconduct

In light of these findings, VU Amsterdam has taken steps to address sexual misconduct on campus. For example, the university has established a confidential reporting system where students and staff can report incidents of sexual misconduct through the ‘Social Safety Office’. The university has also launched campaigns to raise awareness about sexual misconduct and to educate students and staff about how to prevent it, and we have seen many grassroot initiatives from students and staff take hold.

A prime example of this is ‘Zou ik wat zeggen’, which allows users to anonymously report incidents of sexual misconduct. Users can also seek advice on how to deal with the situation and access support resources. Yet, this app has only been implemented in the Medical Faculty, and there is little initiative from the rest of the university to spread this concept.

For this reason, our council is now working to implement this paramount tool VU Amsterdam-wide, making it available to all. This app is invaluable in the fight against sexual harassment and misconduct which is why this must be a priority.

VU Amsterdam continues to take small, yet important steps to prevent and address sexual misconduct on campus. But by implementing measures such as a confidential reporting system, the university takes an immense step in working to eradicate sexual misconduct and in creating a safer space and a respectful environment for everyone.

Prudence Lindeboom USR

Prudence Lindeboom
General councillor




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