Journalistic project aims to document the sexual harassment in Romanian schools
The RISE Project Association has launched an investigation that looks into the sexual harassment cases that have taken and are currently taking place in the Romanian education system. The RISE Project Association is a group of investigative journalists, activists, and programmers who aim to expose all kinds of social issues that Romania suffers from.
Alongside the ANAIS Association, RISE Project has launched the "Abuse Professorship" project. The project is being financially supported by the Active Citizens Fund of Romania, on the basis of a grant received from Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland.
Its aim is to study the issue in-depth in order to provide people with new data that would show how widespread and commonplace sexual harassment really is within the Romanian educational institutions and to evidentiate its systemic character. The partnered associations want to make the collected data visible and easily legible for all, so they have conceptualized an interactive map, based on court rulings and cases documented by the press that show where these cases of abuse occurred.
The journalist group & the NGO have a two-pronged approach to their investigation, which is to take place between December 2022 and January 2024. Firstly, RISE Project has put up a form on their website that victims, as well as witnesses of sexual harassment and/or sexual abuse, can fill out in order to confidentially tell their story and will be speaking to those people that decide to come forward, collecting their cases. Secondly, the ANAIS Association is coordinating an exploratory study in three Romanian universities and five high schools in order to gather data. According to the RISE Project Association, this is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted in Romania.
Another important component of the project is the support offered to the victims. The ANAIS Association will be directly supporting 15 sexual abuse victims, by offering them psychological and legal counseling in order to help them process their traumatic experiences.
According to RISE Project and ANAIS, although sexual harassment and abuse are included in the Penal Code, and are therefore punishable by law, the phenomenon is mostly ignored by the authorities.
The project initiators say that there are no methods of prevention put in place, no awareness-raising or victim support programs available, and there are no proper statistics on the levels of sexual harassment happening in the educational system. Most cases are not reported to the authorities, and abusive teachers stay on for years, continuing to do harm to new generations.
Data collected by the ANAIS Association shows that 30% of female students claim to have been sexually harassed during their studies. And that number jumps to 1 in 2 women in university. “We asked universities about cases of sexual abuse and harassment. Most said they had no such situations. Studies by NGOs say otherwise. If so many stories about sexual abuse and harassment in universities reach the ears of activists, how come most Romanian universities responded that they have not recorded such situations in the last 5 years?” RISE Project journalist Matei Barbulescu told Libertatea.