Gender Based Violence

Gender Based Violence

You can leave this webpage at any time by pressing the Hide Page button at the side.
If you are worried about someone seeing what you are searching, Women’s Aid has a document to help you cover your tracks online.

Immediate Advice: 

  • Call 999 if in danger
  • See your GP or attend A&E to have any injuries treated
  • Emergency contraception is available at any pharmacy
  • Contact the Sexual Assault Coordination Service for practical support (0800 148 88 88) 
  • Contact the Rape Crisis Scotland helpline for emotional support (0808 8010 302)

Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is abusive behaviour directed at someone because of their gender. It is a result of deep-rooted gender inequalities and perceived gender roles within society. It takes the form of actions that result in physical, sexual, and psychological harm or suffering or compromise a person’s dignity. This can include coercive behaviour or denying someone their freedom. More information about what GBV is and support for those who have experienced it can be found below. 

The University of Aberdeen and Students’ Union are committed to working in partnership to combat and address GBV in our community and wider society.

Neither organisation tolerates any form of GBV and are both committed to providing safe and welcoming campuses for all members of our community.

In April 2022, the University of Aberdeen and Students’ Union re-signed a Statement of Commitment to address GBV in our community.

The Joint Statement is a signed promise made by the University and Students’ Union to work together to address GBV on campus. Both organisations understand that there is work to do as a university to provide the best support to victim-survivors of GBV and to support the global work to end it in society. Work towards our Joint Statement will be undertaken by both the University and Students’ Union and will also be supported through partnership working in our Addressing GBV and Sexual Harassment Strategy Group.

At the University of Aberdeen, we are working to promote an understanding of what GBV is and provide support for students and staff who have experienced it. We acknowledge that sexual violence and harassment happens on campus and in the wider community. We do not tolerate it. We want our campuses to be safe and inclusive environments for everyone.

More information about what GBV is and the support available to those who are, or know somebody who is, experiencing it can be found below. You can use our Online Reporting Tool to report any form of harassment, assault, or violence you, or someone you know, has experienced.

You do not need to make a report to the police or University. If you just want to speak to someone about your experience or any feelings you have, you can contact our support services using the ‘Support’ panel at the side of the page.

The University will never ask you to sign a document, or statement, that means you cannot discuss what has happened to you with anyone else. These documents, often called NDA's (Non-disclosure agreements) are not part of the University approach to managing cases and we are signatories to a sector wide commitment in Scotland not to use them - Confidentiality clauses in Scottish higher education — Universities Scotland (

If you choose to report Gender-Based Violence to the University, your personal details, including those pertaining to your sexual orientation, gender identity, and employment (including engagement in sex work), will not be shared with any other person (including your emergency contact) without your consent nor will that information be disclosed as part of any University investigations or disciplinary proceedings related to your report without your consent.

What is Gender Based Violence?

Gender based violence (GBV) can affect people of every gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality, or background. It can include physical, sexual, verbal, or psychological abuse. The perpetrator can be a trusted partner, friend, colleague, classmate, parent, or a stranger. It is not accepted in any form at the University of Aberdeen. You have the right to feel safe in your relationships, free from physical or verbal violence.

The University recognises that although GBV is experienced mostly by women and perpetrated mainly by men, men can also be victims. GBV also includes violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and non-binary (LGBTQ+) people in the form of homophobic, transphobic, biphobic or enbyphobic abuse.

Victim-survivors of GBV are never to blame. The guilt and blame lie entirely with the perpetrator. Victim-survivors should never feel responsible for the perpetrator’s actions.

Examples of GBV include, forcing your partner to have sex with you, telling your partner what they can wear or who they are allowed to speak to, or groping someone on a night out. This list gives a few examples and is not exhaustive. Anything that makes someone feel unsafe, humiliated, or controlled may be considered an act of GBV and is not okay.

Different cultures and countries might have different opinions and views about what is considered okay. At the University of Aberdeen, we have standards that we expect to be met and behaviours that we will not tolerate. We will not tolerate GBV directed at any of our students, staff, or visitors.

What is Coercive Control?

The following information has been taken directly from the Women's Aid website

Coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. 

This controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour. 

Coercive control is a criminal offence and creates a sense of fear that pervades all elements of a victim's life. It works to limit their human rights by depriving them of their liberty and reducing their ability for action. Experts like Evan Stark liken coercive control to being taken hostage. As he says; 'the victim becomes captive in an unreal world created by the abuser, entrapped in a world of confusion, contradiction and fear.'

What is Consent?

If you’re sexually active, it is important to stay safe and be informed. You should never feel pressured to have sex. Everyone has the right to be safe in their relationships free from physical and verbal violence.

It is important to give your consent (permission) every time you take part in any sexual activity. Consent cannot be given if you are heavily under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if you are asleep, or if you are being threatened with physical violence. These examples are not exhaustive. If you have not willingly agreed to do something, no matter the circumstances, you have not given consent.

If someone tries any form of sexual act with you without your consent, it is sexual assault and considered a criminal offence. The University does not tolerate sexual violence or harassment. If you have been a victim of any form of sexual violence and would like to make a report to the university, you can do so by using our Confidential Reporting Tool or you can make a report to the police.

Additionally, if you do not want to speak to the University or the police at this time, and you have been a victim of sexual violence in the last 8 days you can contact your local SARCS (Sexual Assault Response Co-Ordination Service) who can provide medical support and advice.  

What is Consent?

Sexual consent means a person willingly agrees to have sex or engage in a sexual activity. This is known as a ‘free agreement’. To give consent, the person must be able to make their own decisions. Consent is not a one-off – it can be withdrawn at any time. Being in any form of relationship, whether it’s a first date or a long-term partnership, does not give anyone the right to participate in sexual activities without consent.

It is important to remember:

  • Consent to one sexual act does not imply consent to any other act.
  • Consent to sexual activity may be withdrawn at any time. This can be before or during the conduct.
  • If you’re in a sexual encounter with someone and they ask you to stop, and you don’t, you’re committing a sexual offence.

Withdrawing Consent

You might give consent and then later withdraw it. That is okay, and always your choice. You can give and take away consent at any point before or during the thing you may have given consent for. You might give consent for one thing but not another, this is okay too and if the person you are with does not accept this and continues, they are doing so without consent. You have a right to be in control of your body and what happens to it.

How and when can consent be given?

Consent can be given through many different actions. It is important not only to listen to their words but also to consider their body language. If someone initiates sex, then that may be a sign of consent.

If someone is hesitating or not actively participating, then they may not be comfortable with what is happening. Always make sure your partner is comfortable. You can do this by asking things like “is this okay?” and “do you enjoy this?”

If someone is unsure or if they say maybe, it does not mean ‘convince me’. You should not try to persuade them or make repeated attempts to have sexual contact.

What is Rape?

Rape is a form of sexual violence. It is a criminal offence and has male and female victims. When a person uses their penis to penetrate another person without that person’s consent, it is rape. Rapists are not always strangers; they can be partners and trusted friends too. If you have not consented to have sex with that person, or you have withdrawn your consent, it is rape.

Rape only incudes penetration by a penis, it does not include penetration by fingers or any other object. This is sexual assault by penetration and is a criminal offence considered as serious as rape.

If you have been assaulted in the last eight days, you can contact your local SARCS (Sexual Assault Response Co-Ordination Service) by calling 0800 148 88 88. This NHS service can help you get the support and medical assistance you need. They can also help you make a police report, however, this is entirely your choice and there will be no pressure to do this.

What is Stalking and Harassment?

What is harassment?

Harassment is when someone repeatedly behaves in a way that makes you feel scared or threatened.

Harassment can come from someone that you might know, or a stranger. It might include bullying from classmates or colleagues, online abuse (including cyber-stalking), sending unwanted gifts, letters, emails and phone calls, or making unwanted visits. This list is not exhaustive. If someone’s behaviour is unwanted and has happened more than once, it can be considered harassment.

What is Stalking?

Stalking is a more aggressive form of harassment. In the case of stalking, the stalker will have an obsession with the person they are targeting.

You can be stalked by someone you know. This might be an ex-partner of someone you used to be friends with. It might also be a stranger. Even if it is someone you know, or have known, if they are making you uncomfortable, it is considered stalking, and is a criminal offence. 

Stalking might include, regularly following someone, watching, or spying on someone or repeatedly going uninvited to where they live or hang around. The National Stalking Helpline can provide advice and support.

Online stalking and harassment

Online stalking and harassment can happen over social media, gaming sites or online chatrooms. Stalking and harassment can happen online by people you might never have met. Sometimes the harassers will use these platforms to get personal information from people, send threats to share private information and photographs or send viruses. This can leave the victim-survivor feeling anxious and scared.

You can access advice and support from The Cyber Helpline.

What is Spiking?

Spiking is a crime and can be a means to make a secondary crime, such as sexual assault, easier.

More information about spiking and the signs to look out for can be found here.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is any form or unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that makes you feel humiliated or intimidated, or that creates a hostile environment.

Victim-survivors of sexual harassment can feel anxious and/or depressed and might face additional challenges such as difficulties focusing on course work or not sleeping properly.

Sexual harassment has several forms. It includes things like paying excessive unwanted attention to someone or commenting on the way someone looks. Calling someone names based on their sexuality or gender or talking to someone in a sexual way that makes them feel uncomfortable can also be considered sexual harassment. It can happen in person or online.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence can include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse within intimate relationships or between family members. It does not just include married couples or people living together. Domestic violence can affect anyone in a relationship irrespective of age, the length of relationship, or living situation.

Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence and anyone can be a perpetrator.

Domestic violence can happen in several ways. It includes controlling and threatening behaviour that makes you feel unsafe or belittled. This can include things like someone you know telling you what to wear or who you can speak to, someone that you trust reading you emails without your permission or putting pressure on you to have sex. This list is not exhaustive.

Domestic violence is a criminal offence.

The NHS website has a list of things that could be considered domestic violence and external support services available to you.

What is a Forced Marriage?

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not, or cannot, due to severe learning difficulties or mental health conditions, consent to the marriage. In cases of forced marriages, pressure or abuse is used to force the person or people into marriage.

Forcing someone to get married against their will is a criminal offence in the UK. It is considered a form of domestic abuse. The UK Government considers forced marriages a severe breach of human rights.       

Forced marriages can sometimes happen due to pressure from family members who are forcing marriage because they believe that it is what is best for those involved. For some people, forced marriages are seen as part of their culture or religion. There might be threats of physical, psychological, or financial abuse. This abuse can often continue even after a forced marriage has happened.  

You have the right to choose who you marry, when you marry or whether you want to get married at all.

You can contact the National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage helpline who can provide support and advice to anyone experiencing domestic abuse or a forced marriage. This helpline can also help family members, friends, colleagues, and professionals who support them.

What is Commercial Sexual Exploitation?

Commercial Sexual Exploitation refers to sexual activities being complete in exchange for something such as drugs, shelter, food, money, or protection. Examples of commercial sexual exploitation include prostitution, sex trafficking and pornography. This list is not exhaustive.

Exploitation of people by these means of ‘entertainment’ is linked to gender inequality and sexual violence. Many people that are involved in commercial sexual exploitation do so because of a lack of choice.

The University can provide emergency accommodation and financial support if this is a factor preventing you from leaving.

Forcing someone to complete sexual acts in exchange for drugs, shelter, food, money, or protection is a criminal offence. Those who are being forced to complete these acts are never to blame.


What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs. There are no health benefits for the girls or women this happens to.

FGM tends to happen to girls between infancy and the age of 15, generally before they have undergone puberty. It is a severe breach of human rights and is considered child abuse. It is a criminal offence in the UK.

FGM can lead to immediate and extended health problems. It can lead to infections and scar tissue. In the long term it can cause mental health problems such as depression and PTSD.

If you have experienced FGM, you can speak to your GP who can provide medical support and advice. 

Supporting someone who has experienced GBV

It can be difficult to know what to do or say if a friend, partner, or family member discloses sexual violence to you. It can be frightening and distressing. Here are some tips about what to do if you are supporting someone who has experienced GBV:

  • Listen to them without interrupting.
  • Don’t judge them.
  • Reassure them that they can trust you.
  • Ask them what you can do to help.
  • Respect their boundaries and choices.
  • Do not make choices for them.
  • Give them space if they ask for it.
  • Let them tell you what happened in their own words, in their own time (they may not want to tell anyone, ever). 
  • Contact the emergency services if anyone is at immediate risk of harm.


It is important to look after yourself as well, and sometimes that may involve acknowledging that you cannot meet the needs of the person who has experienced GBV. It is not your role to provide ongoing, specialist support, and it is okay to put boundaries in place. Rape Crisis Scotland offer support and advice to those supporting survivors of GBV - there are helpful support guides here.