UniSAFE 7P Conceptual Framework

The UniSAFE project relies on a 7P model to address and combat violence, to assess the efficiency of modes of intervention and regulation and the institutional responses put into place to eradicate gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, in RPOs. At the core is the measure of the prevalence of gender-based violence, with the aim to understand the roles of university and research organisations in prevention, protection, prosecution, provision of services, supported by partnerships and policies.

This 7P model, originally developed by Mergaert and colleagues’ study on gender-based violence in sport (2016), takes a holistic approach to gender-based violence and is better equipped to collect comprehensive data, analyse relationships, and translate findings into operational tools by extending the conventional UN’s and EU’s 3P approach (prevention, protection, prosecution) (UN 2017; EU 2019, 2020) or the Council of Europe (2011) Istanbul Convention’s 4P approach (prevention, protection, prosecution, policies) (Anitha & Lewis 2019).



For a detailed presentation of UniSAFE’s conceptual framework, read the project’s Deliverable: “UniSAFE Theoretical and conceptual framework”



Prevalence and incidence estimates and (quantitative and qualitative) data collection can contribute to reasoned, comprehensive and coordinated policymaking (Mergaert et al 2016). Prevalence and incidence estimates allow us to form an approximate idea of the true scale of the problem. Alongside prevalence and incidence estimates, research and administrative records and datasets, contribute to an understanding of the extent of gender-based violence. Prevalence refers to data (and data collection) estimating the extent of the gender-based violence, and ideally providing information on different forms of gender-based violence. For the UniSAFE project, this includes prevalence of different forms of gender-based violence for victim/survivors by various social positions and groupings. Such groupings include those categorised by social divisions, notably age, class, (dis)ability, ethnicity/racialisation, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and also those categorised by functional position in the research performing organisations in question: students, academics, and professional, administrative, technical or other support staff. These include further sub-positions, e.g., undergraduate student, master’s student, doctoral researcher, visiting student, visiting (post)doctoral researcher, postdoctoral researcher, lecturer, senior lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor, professor, professor emeritus/a, leader/head of studies/discipline/unit/division/department, dean/rectorate, administrative employer, administrative supervisor/manager, support worker (e.g., laboratory technicians, IT, cleaning, catering). Prevalence is also categorisable in terms of the social position of perpetrators (either individual or collective) and bystanders, and the relationality between perpetrators and victims (i.e. how they are connected), and by (although controversial) severity and frequency over time.




Prevention refers to implemented measures to promote changes in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour and attitudes, and may include awareness-raising initiatives, the development of educational materials, and the training of professionals (Mergaert et al 2016). In terms of research performing organisations, this includes: induction materials for both staff and students; ongoing internal and external publicity and training; clear public written statements and visuals; integration of anti-gender-based violence in teaching and research (both content and process); promotion of research on gender-based violence; funded expertise on gender-based violence.




Protection aims at ensuring the safety and meeting the needs of (potential) victims. Protection comprises (cooperative) actions to protect (potential) victims of any form of gender-based violence; it also includes reporting the occurrence of, or potential for, abuse or harassment (Mergaert et al. 2016), highlighting that a measure or intervention can contribute to and be coded as multiple Ps (as reporting obviously also counts for Prevalence). Protection mainly relates to measures that are taken on a case-by-case basis. For example, measures to avoid contacts between the victim and the alleged perpetrator, protection against lay-off and retaliation for people reporting incidents of gender-based violence, special provisions for people reporting incidents; suspension of student supervisions for alleged perpetrators during the time of investigations. Protection in research performing organisations requires clear processes, procedures and infrastructure for reporting occurrences, training and expertise of those responsible for designing and implementing these processes, procedures and infrastructure, and for those acting as contact points.




Prosecution and disciplinary measures cover legal proceedings against suspected perpetrators, and related investigative measures and judicial proceedings, including court cases, including criminal and civil offences, as well as internal disciplinary grievance procedures (Mergaert et al. 2016). In terms of research performing organisations, this includes: clear processes, procedures and infrastructure for dealing with perpetrators, including possible disciplining, warnings, suspensions, rehabilitation, and termination of employment and study, as legally appropriate; both internal and external resources, training and expertise of those responsible for designing and implementing these processes, procedures and infrastructure and liaison with legal, police and criminal justice organisations and professionals (with the latter also to be considered under Partnerships).


Provision of services


Provision of services refers to the services offered to support victims, families, perpetrators, and bystanders of gender-based violence. It also covers the professionals who provide these services (e.g., those involved in specialised training) and the existing tools (e.g., guidelines, learning materials) to assist these in better addressing the needs of both target groups (Mergaert et al. 2016), In terms of research performing organisations, provision of services overlaps with both protection and prosecution, again underlining the difficulty in clear-cut delineation and the need to take into account how a measure can contribute to and be coded as more than one P. It can include for example legal counselling services, psychological support or medical aid. Importantly, the provision of services needs to be well known to all staff and students, and not only known to (potential) victims and perpetrators, and managers and supervisors.




Partnership relates to the involvement of relevant actors at international, national, regional, local and institutional levels, including governmental agencies, civil society organisations, trade unions, staff and student associations, working in collaboration on concerted actions to combat gender-based violence (Mergaert et al. 2016). University and departmental procedures are developed and implemented in cooperation with students, staff and faculty and their representatives. As well as liaison with legal, police and criminal justice organisations and professionals, partnership includes close liaison with and learning from NGOs and other organisations with expertise in gender-based violence.




Policies refer to a) policy frameworks which are the existence of a coherent set of measures with a clear vision and comprehensive strategy that respond to the problems of gender-based violence in an integral and structural way, and b) to policy documents which formalise explicitly and specifically the organisation’s commitment to fight gender-based violence. Policies refer to declared intentions and differ from other measures in that they are more abstract and – while linked to implementation, they are not per se about implementation. Policies also refer to the dominant or primary discourse framing the measures, rather than the implementation of these same measures in relation to prevention, protection, prosecution, provision of services or partnerships, and with the stated aim to combat gender-based violence.