STUDENTS have been learning how to spot red flags in abusive relationships.

A conference looking at how to prevent and end gender-based violence in Scotland’s colleges and universities was held at Ayrshire College.

The ‘Love doesn’t hurt’ conference brought together staff and student associations from colleges and universities.

They were also joined by Police Scotland, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, local authorities and third sector organisations like Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid to discuss ideas and support the implementation of the Equally Safe toolkit for colleges and universities.

Equally Safe is a joint Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls in Scotland.

The toolkit was developed by the University of Strathclyde with assistance from organisations including Police Scotland, NUS Scotland and Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis Centre, and is being rolled out to educational institutions to help them tackle gender-based violence and sexual harassment for both students and staff.

Delegates heard a recorded message from Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, thanking the attendees for coming together to discuss such an important issue.

Fiona Drouet, who helped to develop the toolkit, then spoke to delegates about the tragic death of her daughter Emily, a Law student who took her own life after being subjected to emotional and physical abuse by her former boyfriend.

Cumnock Chronicle:
Fiona has urged for more to be done to support and protect students at both colleges and universities through the #emilytest campaign. The Scottish Government has agreed to provide £400,000 to support the roll-out and implementation of the Equally Safe toolkit.

She said: "I am very privileged to be involved in the Scottish Government's initiative of bringing universities and colleges together to openly discuss gender-based violence on campus. 

"Gender-based violence is a societal issue, and although not restricted to universities and colleges, we know these institutions are well placed to play a significant role in addressing such abuse.

“It was an excellent forum for sharing good practice & knowledge. Discussing our successes, as well as our concerns. I strongly advocate working together as only by doing this can we ensure we are doing our best. 

"Not repeating errors, sharing concerns and solution finding. Everyone is committed to doing their absolute best to help in delivering a safe environment for students to live, work & study in. 

"The determination to find long term, sustainable solutions was evident and indeed, from just one event, we have identified further work to take forward.

“There is still much work to do, but it is clear we are making excellent progress across Scotland, this collaborative approach helps to build upon that. I believe with continued focus on safeguarding our students, we could one day see Scotland having some of the safest campuses in which to study."