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At the University of Aix-Marseille, the first cell on sexist and sexual violence in France is bearing fruit


As soon as he returned to his master’s degree, he began to throw “insistent stares”. At first, Daniela* didn’t want to pay attention. But after a few weeks, the student got his mobile number on a group chat and started sending him private messages. He wanted to see her. She didn’t answer, but he insisted. She ended up making him “kindly understand” that she wasn’t interested. But nothing worked. “I felt he was starting to fixate on me, he had a hateful tone so I blocked him, but he continued to text me and reach me on other networks. He started texting a friend. He said I obsessed him. I started to be afraid because he lived in the same residence as me.calmly unfolds the 22-year-old student, enrolled at Aix-Marseille University.

In January 2022, Daniela decides to warn her professors as well as the university presidency. She submits a handrail and compiles a file that she considers ” solid “, but he is told that the collected elements are “too light”. In June 2022, one of his professors advised him to turn to a new university service devoted to respect and equality. “The team took the time to listen to me and understand me, it’s essential for someone who feels in danger and who is afraid”remembers the student.

This unit, unique in France, has the mission of ” prevent ” and of ” to struggle against ” against situations of gender-based and sexual violence, harassment and discrimination. She collects the words of the victims and also offers to resolve situations considered abnormal. Launched in May 2022, it is made up of two lawyers and a psychologist. It is accessible to the university’s 80,000 students and 8,000 staff members. “There are listening devices in all universities but no treatment cell”notes Amélie Samba, jurist and director of the service.

Read also: Gender-based and sexual violence: a study by the Women’s Foundation denounces the cost of justice for victims

Three full-time employees

In 2015, a first listening cell, placed under the authority of a teacher, quickly showed its limits. In four years, only 65 referrals had been processed. In 2020, with the arrival of a vice-president in charge of gender equality, the university decided to rethink this service. It was then inspired by a system launched by the University of Montreal, the Bureau du respect de la personne. Since then, the Aix-Marseille University team has received ” regularly “ requests for information from universities wishing to obtain “details” on the establishment of such a service and regularly promotes it, at the request of the Ministry of Higher Education.

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