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Where is Çukurova University Support Unit Against Sexual Harassment and Assault missing? How can it be more accessible?
Çukurova University Sexual Harassment and Assault Support Unit (CTS) was established more than a year ago, but it has difficulties conducting active work involving and reaching students.
What should the unit do, and how can the deficiencies be eliminated? We spoke with Delal Özbey from the Çukurova University Women’s Studies Society and Seren Eletaş, a former Women’s Studies Community member.
“Having this unit on the campus was a must”
Founded by young women in university with the demands of a safe campus, a safe life, and a secure future, the Women’s Society continues to work within the university against harassment, rape, and violence in all areas of life. Through this society, women freely express their ideas, discuss their problems and weave together.
Some parts of the Çukurova University campus are uninhabited, and entrances to the school are not monitored. The security measures that were not taken caused especially the harassment of women.
The most significant demand of the society since its foundation was that the sexual harassment prevention unit was to be established. Society collected thousands of signatures and presented them to the university administration. As a result, the unit was launched last year. Women get stronger when they come together. They find solutions to problems by making a voice in solidarity.
Seren Eletaş explained the path to the establishment of the unit as follows:
“After the harassment incidents at the university, we came together as a community on how to prevent it. Having a unit on the university campus was essential when students were exposed to harassment and violence. But, of course, the university administration had to be a part of it, and there had to be a unit that included students. As the Women’s Society, our request to establish a Harassment Prevention Unit has become our priority work. The university administration announced last year that they would confirm the Harassment Prevention Unit. We can say that the women’s society’s work and keeping this issue on the agenda has mobilized the university administration.”
“The unit is failing to reach students”
Delal Özbey from the Women’s Studies Society said that although the unit is active compared to the units of many universities, it is lacking in reaching students:
“Students don’t know the unit. The unit needs to be promoted more within the university. For example, someone who has faced harassment at the university should know what to do and be able to report it to the unit. The promotions made were in the school’s conference halls and were insufficient as they could not attract many students to that kind of promotion. It should reach students by doing joint activities with clubs and societies, hanging posters inside the school, and establishing workshops.
“The students’ demands seem to have been met, but not entirely. For example, they say they offer psychological support to students, but when we apply for psychological support, they direct us to 4th-grade students. That is unacceptable. The sexual harassment prevention unit should provide in-house psychological support to the students who have been abused. It is one of the most significant demands of students. Also, legal aid should be provided. In this respect, I cannot say that students’ demands were fully met. I hope it will become a more active unit where our demands are met. Because there is a lot of harassment in our university, students need to know that they can go to school safely, feel that they are not alone, and seek their rights.”
What is missing? What should be done?
While at least two students from each faculty and each dormitory were required to have a representative at CTS, only two students could participate in the unit. It shows that students do not have enough say in the unit. There must be an active student representation within the unit.
The unit does not yet have a hotline because students who are harassed cannot reach the unit sufficiently. Recently, a female student reached the Çukurova University Women’s Studies Society to report abuse and was referred to CTS for legal and psychological support. The unit should be able to complete this task without the societies’ support.
CTS should support students who have been abused and raped, but not just that. To prevent these incidents from happening, CTS should take precautions on campus and try to prevent harassment, rape, and violence with activities that will increase awareness.
Many parts of the university campus, which has a vast area, are uninhabited. The problem can be solved by opening new spaces where students can spend time and increasing the lighting. Unfortunately, the campus gets pitch black when it gets dark. As a result, students do not have a chance to spend time at the university after dark. In addition, there is no control at the campus entrance, and there is a situation where everyone who is not a student can easily enter the campus. This unsupervised entry jeopardizes the safety of students on the already deserted campus. The road next to the dormitories at the campus entrance has been opened to traffic. Students are uncomfortable with this situation. The female students stressed that none of them had a car; however, after the road opened to traffic, they were uncomfortable with drivers’ catcalls.
Çukurova Women’s Studies Society draws attention to the security problem of female students on campus and asks the administration to work on solving this problem. CTS must take action before incidents of harassment happen. The security guards should patrol the campus, and the entrances to the campus should be controlled. The unit should be introduced to the students, and awareness-raising activities should be carried out. Çukurova Women’s Studies Society stated that they will submit a petition to the unit about this issue and convey their demands.
Çukurova University Women’s Studies Society wants an active Sexual Harassment Prevention Unit, which aims to ensure campus security, provides trainings on what students should do against harassment, rape and violence, cares about gender equality and carries out active studies on campus, organizes trainings such as dating violence, sexual health, harassment, rape, provides medical, legal and psychological support to students who are victims of violence, cares about students’ opinions and works together. The unit must meet these demands with sensitivity.
Photo: Volkan Pekal / Evrensel