Dissertation Abstracts

Universities Free of Gender Violence. Communicative Acts among the University Community that Overcome Gender Violence in Spanish Universities.

Author: Schubert, Tinka T, tschubert@ub.edu
Department: Social Theory
University: University of Barcelona, Spain
Supervisor: Ramon Flecha
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: gender violence prevention , universities , communicative acts
Areas of Research: Women in Society , Education , Language and Society


Violence against women at universities is a major problem that is widely analyzed and recognized in most countries, especially in the United States. Data evidences high incidence rates such as 19% of college students have experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since starting their higher education (Krebs et al., 2007). Pioneer research focused on evidencing the existence of gender violence, developing tools to measure the scope of the problem and analyzed the influence of power structures in higher education. Consequences have been found devastating and refer to the victims’ health and to academic consequences for the victim and the institution (Cortina et al., 1998; Fitzgerald et al., 1988; Kirkpatrick & Kanin, 1957). Recently, literature mainly focuses on gender violence prevention due to the persistence of the problem highlighting the role of the community for more effective prevention strategies (Banyard et al., 2005). In Spain, pioneer research is very recent and evidences the existence of gender violence and the silence that reigns in Spanish universities, a major force of resistance. However, progress has been made and research results have led to changes in the legislation. Yet, prevention of VAW at Spanish universities is crucial to turn them into spaces free of violence. The present research departs from the analysis of communicative acts that are present among the Spanish university community analyzing those that promote violence against women in Spanish universities and those that help to overcome it. Research on prevention of VAW has demonstrated that the analysis of communicative acts provides elements to effectively contribute to overcoming these situations.
The Communicative Methodology is used which has been recommended by the European Commission for research with vulnerable groups. It aims at social transformation by focusing on both, the barriers to overcoming VAW at universities as well as the possibilities to overcoming it. Departing from an extensive review of the existing scientific literature and documentary on the prevention of VAW at universities and communicative acts, diverse data collection techniques are employed: communicative daily life stories with victims of VAW at universities; in-depth interviews with institutional representatives mainly related to gender issues, and with faculty who have supported victims of gender violence and are fighting for eradicating VAW at universities.
Results evidence the existence of violence in the communicative acts among the Spanish university community as well as communicative acts that promote violence and those that change the interactions among the university community contributing to preventing gender violence in Spanish higher education. The existing mechanisms to tackle gender violence are subordinate to the prevailing power structures which are maintained in communicative acts. Still, there are increasing initiatives that evidence changes in Spanish universities. The emergence of the first peer-to-peer network, the Solidarity Network of Victims of Gender Violence in Universities, evidences these changes and contributes to increasing communicative acts that effectively tackle gender violence. The present research evidences the possibilities of contributing to gender violence prevention when communicative acts that are free of gender violence and that challenge the power structures are promoted.

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