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Safe social setting on campus

VU Amsterdam is an open and welcoming place to study and to work. Appropriate conduct is integral to the safe and positive environment we create and take active measures to maintain. Social safety is a prerequisite for being able to study or work effectively. VU Amsterdam does not tolerate any form of discrimination, intimidation, bullying, sexual harassment or other behaviours that violate our values.

Yet, despite our best efforts, students, PhDs and staff at our university can find themselves confronted with these problems. If you have experienced or witnessed any such behaviour, you can report it to the Social Safety Hotline. This hotline is an accessible way to find the help, guidance and support you need to resolve the situation. Read on for more information on these worrying and inappropriate forms of behaviour and how to report them.

Any behaviour that is perceived as unsafe can be reported. That includes bullying, discrimination, inappropriate conduct, domestic or honour-related violence, stalking, prolonged persistent expression of grievances (this is a form of stalking), disturbed behaviour that leads others to feel unsafe, intimidation, sexual harassment, sexual violence, physical or verbal abuse, threats, or suicidal behaviour.

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Social Safety Hotline

  • What can I report to the social safety coordinators?

    Stalking

      • What it is:
        If you are regularly hassled by another person against your will, you may be a victim of stalking. Stalking is a very intrusive form of annoyance and intimidation and can be a criminal offence. If you are being stalked, it is important not to keep it to yourself. Contact the social safety coordinators for help.
      • What you can do yourself:
        If you no longer wish to have contact with someone, make it clear to them, via WhatsApp or by email/letter. If the person still persists, it is a criminal offence and you may wish to consider reporting it to the police. The police will then interview the stalker in order to bring a halt to it.
      • What we do:
        The social safety coordinators can provide you with good advice and assistance. We will also conduct a risk assessment. Since no two situations are the same, we will draw up a plan of action with you. Sometimes, we will enlist the expertise of the local police officer or a forensic psychologist in order to gain a better understanding of your stalker’s behaviour.
        Further information about stalking (leaflet ‘If you are being stalked’ in Dutch): Folder 'Als u wordt gestalkt'.pdf (movisie.nl)

    Prolonged and persistent complaints

      • What it is:
        Another form of stalking involves the prolonged and persistent expression of grievances or complaints. The purpose of this is not the complaint itself, but to keep your attention. It can sometimes take on extreme forms and cross the line. There are examples where lecturers have to deal with individual students who persistently complain. When the aim is no longer to reach a solution, this may constitute a form of stalking.
      • What you can do yourself:
        If you suspect a case of persistent complaining, discuss it with someone you trust and ask them for their opinion. Does this behaviour really cross the line? If you are unsure, or feel intimidated or uncomfortable about it, contact one of the social safety coordinators.
      • What we do:
        The social safety coordinator will discuss the issue with you and will be able to assess whether it is a case of persistent complaining. We can provide you with advice and draw up a plan of action. In it, we will point out how best to deal with the situation and suggest some dos and don’ts.

    Sexual harassment

      • What it is:
        Sexual harassment can take many forms. You may have to deal with sexually suggestive comments or it may be non-verbal. Perhaps someone is trying it on with you against your will. Derogatory remarks can also be a form of sexual harassment. Sexting, which involves the sharing of photos or video without your permission, is a criminal offence and ‘slut-shaming’ is also a form of sexual harassment.
      • What you can do yourself:
        Set boundaries and put yourself in a place of safety. Confide in someone and talk about it. Keep evidence. Contact the social safety coordinators.
      • What we do:
        The most appropriate help depends on the context in which the situation has occurred. Sometimes, we will refer you to the Sexual Assault Center (Centrum seksueel geweld) and sometimes we will contact the police. It is also possible that the suspected culprit is a VU student or member of staff who is making you feel unsafe. We will draw up a plan of action to ensure you can feel safe again. This is always done in consultation and you will remain in control at all times.

    Sexual violence

      • What it is:
        One in every eight women and one in 25 men will be a victim of sexual violence at some time in their lives. Between the ages of 12 and 24, the risk of rape is four times as high. These are shocking statistics and compelling reasons for focusing on the prevention of sexual violence. We believe it is important for victims of sexual violence to report it in order to enable appropriate assistance to be provided. If you are a victim of sexual violence, you may experience concentration problems, PTSD or symptoms of depression. It can become more difficult to study or work.
      • What you can do yourself:
        Seek help. Tell your story to someone you trust. This may be a fellow student, colleague, academic advisor, confidential counsellor, lecturer or social safety coordinator.
      • What we do:
        We are in close contact with the Sexual Assault Center, the police (and vice squad) and the student psychologists. If you contact us, we will assess what type of help is most appropriate for you and guide you towards that help. If you find it difficult to contact organisations yourself, we will do this for you or help you in the process.
        Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has signed the Amnesty International manifesto against sexual violence. By signing it, the University is accepting its responsibility to tackle the problem. The manifesto features a description of an ideal university where students feel safe, are aware of the facts and myths about rape and consent and know where to go for support. The manifesto also contains six concrete pledges – steps that the University intends to take to achieve this. Read the manifesto
        If you are a victim of sexual violence, do not keep it to yourself – seek help. You will find details of where to find that help on this page.
        You can find more information here: Help for victims of sexual violence - Sexual Assault Center

    Inappropriate behaviour online

      • What it is:
        There are increasing incidences of people experiencing inappropriate behaviour via WhatsApp or social media. Examples include racist messages on social media, sexist comments in WhatsApp groups, or messages from fake accounts. These can be hurtful and make you feel unsafe. It can also be a form of bullying.
      • What you can do yourself:
        Make it clear that you find the message annoying and that it offends you. Keep a record of the messages. Talk to other people about it. Consider blocking the sender of the messages. Report it to the social safety coordinators.
  • Report inappropriate or worrying behaviour (this can also be done confidentially or anonymously)

    Unfortunately, our students or staff members occasionally find themselves confronted with worrying or inappropriate conduct. Details of the action you can take and who you can turn to for help or advice are given below.

    This includes the opportunity to report your concerns anonymously, as we fully realize that reporting a possibly harmful situation can put you at risk. Our goal is to restore a safe situation. We do this based on the duty of care we have for you as a student or staff member. This duty of care applies to you, the person who communicates or wants to report this behaviour, but also to the person who displays this behaviour.

    You can report worrying or inappropriate conduct to the VU Social Safety Hotline. You can do this in different ways:

  • What will happen when I make a report?

    Social safety coordinators make an appointment

    If you have asked to be contacted, then one our of social safety coordinators, Rob Pel or Rosanne van Kampen, will get in touch to make an appointment with you. The purpose of the first appointment is to discuss the situation and the aim of your report. We explain that we are going to help you and what form that help will take.

    Risk assessment and action plan

    We often start with a risk assessment, to determine the extent of the risk present in the situation. After that, we turn our attention to drawing up an action plan. Members of the social safety expert team may also be involved at this stage. In some cases this can lead to a warm transfer to a confidential counsellor, for example, or the ombudsman or one of the external parties we work with. It may also be necessary to have a conversation with the person whose behaviour is the subject of the complaint.

    You remain in charge

    The person making the report always remains in charge, but the social safety coordinators can advise and, where necessary, supervise the process of restoring safety for everyone involved. If there is an acute safety risk, immediate action can be taken.

  • Social Safety Expert Team

    Expertise in the area of social safety

    Of course, our social safety coordinators do not handle reports of worrying or inappropriate conduct alone. In order to resolve a situation in a careful and responsible manner, use can be made of the expertise of the employees who form the social safety expert team. This is done anonymously, so that the report is not traceable.

    Who is on the expert team?

    The expert team includes staff from across VU Amsterdam who are both experts in their own field and also have an affinity with social safety. They include a student psychologist, the ombudsman, a diversity officer, a spokesperson, a legal expert, the head of P&O, confidential counsellors, the head of mobility at the international office, academic advisors and social safety coordinators. They may be asked to provide input to help resolve an incident. This creates an integrated approach and an extensive network, preventing situations in which students (or staff) are sent from one possible source of help to another.

  • Reporting through a confidential counsellor or student psychologist

    If you report a situation to a confidential counsellor or student psychologist, they can also bring the situation to the expert team. This is done anonymously unless you give permission for names to be disclosed.

  • External parties

    In the field of social safety, we cooperate extensively with external partners, such as the police (including the vice squad, if relevant), the Public Prosecutor, mental health organization GGZ inGeest (especially in cases involving psychological problems and risk of suicide), a forensic psychologist, Blijfgroep (specialized in domestic and honour-related violence), Centre for Sexual Violence, 113 suicide prevention, and the Dutch probation office. Sometimes it is necessary to bring in external partners in order to properly resolve a situation or transfer it to a relevant authority.

  • Support matrix

    We have also compiled a full overview of people and organizations you can turn to if you need help:

Confidential counsellors

  • Confidential counsellors for students

    The Executive Board is keen to ensure that VU Amsterdam offers a safe and pleasant environment for all students. Sexual harassment and other forms of undesirable conduct (violence, intimidation, aggression, bullying) will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Incidents are rare but not entirely unknown. VU Amsterdam therefore applies an active policy to counter all forms of undesirable conduct. Special 'confidential counsellors' have been appointed. There is also a formal complaints procedure and an investigating committee.

    VU Amsterdam has appointed Confidential Counsellors for students. They can be contacted via the email address vertrouwenspersonen-studenten@vu.nl

    Currently, all conversations with the confidential counsellors are by telephone or via zoom. If you would still benefit from a live conversation, please contact us. 

    • Fatiema Khadje, +31 (0)20 59 82094
    • Bas Scholten, +31 (0)20 59 82851
    • Mariken Blom,  +31 (0)20 59 85027
  • Staff and PhD counsellor

    The confidants offer a listening ear and can offer support in raising the issue of undesirable behaviour. In addition, a confidential counsellor can assist in submitting an official complaint to the independent complaints committee for undesirable behaviour. Another confidential counsellor can support the accused. The confidential advisors treat what you tell them confidentially: they do nothing without your permission and knowledge. In this role, the confidential advisors fall directly under the Executive Board. They have followed a training course for confidential counsellors and regularly follow refresher courses. For questions and reports you can contact the confidential counsellor of your own faculties or department. See the Inappropiate Conduct Regulation for a description of the tasks and working method of the Staff and PhD Counsellor.

    The Staff and PhD Counsellors are:

    Marielle Rozemond
    'I have worked for 25 years at HRMA as trainer and consultant. Since 2007 I have been appointed as a confidential advisor for employees within VU Amsterdam. If you experience undesirable behaviour, please contact Sandjai or me via vertrouwenspersonen.personeel@vu.nl. This is treated confidentially and if desired I can help find an (informal) solution to the problem'. 

    Sandjai Bhulai 
    'VU Amsterdam has a special place in my life: I studied here, obtained my PhD here and have been working at the Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science since 2003. I am Professor of Business Analytics and since 2018 I have also been appointed as a staff confidential adviser. Because of my position, I know very well what is going on in the research, and what effect this can have on the work experience. I hope to be able to put this knowledge to good use so that everyone at the VU can experience a safe and pleasant workplace'. 

    Reporting undesirable behaviour 
    You can make an appointment with the confidant via: vertrouwenspersonen.personeel@vu.nl
    Your reaction will be treated confidentially. 

Maybe you were looking for this as well?

Do you want to report inappropriate or worrying behaviour?

Please contact the social safety coordinators

06 15832514 Rosanne van Kampen