Thomas Feltes
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Gender-based Violence, Stalking, Fear of Crime

EU-Project (Documents and Reports at the End of the Page)

Due to their age and lifestyle, female students as a group are especially at risk from various forms of sexual violence – the aim of the three-year European-wide research project “Gender-based Violence, Stalking and Fear of Crime” (2009-2011) is to verify this hypothesis and to collect, analyse and compare relevant data in five European countries. By analysing the qualitative and quantitative data in a comparative survey it aims to rising awareness for the victimisation of female students. In the consequence this will support universities in their efforts to decrease sexual violence at universities, to help victims and to implement adequate instruments of prevention and intervention.

The EU project, which has been funded through the programme “Prevention of and Fight Against Crime” initiated by the EU Commission on General Justice, Freedom And Security, is being coordinated at the Department of Criminology at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. Besides the German university the consortium covers the University of Bologna, Jagiellonian University in Cracow/Poland, Universitát Autonoma de Barcelona/Spain and Keele University/U.K.. The consortium of this project involves five universities in five Member states of the European Union: Germany, Spain, Great Britain, Italy and Poland.


Ruhr-University Bochum/ Germany: Prof. Dr. Thomas Feltes M.A., Dipl. Pol. Katrin List, Dr. Rosa Schneider M.A.

Bologna University/Italy: Prof. Dr. Augusto Balloni, Prof. Dr. Roberta Bisi, Prof. Dr. Raffaella Sette

Jagiellonian University Krakow/Poland: Prof. Dr. Janina Czapska, Magdalena Klosa, Elżbieta Lesińska

Universitá Autonoma di Barcelona/ Spain: Prof. Dr. Encarna Bodelon, Dr. Noelia Igareda, Gloria Casas

Keele University/ United Kingdom: Prof. Dr. Philip Stenning, Dr. Trishima Mitra-Kahn, Dr. Clare Gunby


Gender based violence, stalking and fear of crime have serious consequences for victims – physically and psychologically and play a dominant role in the criminal policy debate. Despite the relevance of the topic, knowledge on sexual victimisation is fragmentary in the European Union. Official crime statistics just map recorded cases, the part of crime which is reported to the police. In the field of sexual delinquency this statistics are not representative, as only few victims report their case to the police.

A further problem especially for comparing the victimisation rates on a transnational level are differences in definition and understanding on what is counted as sexual victimisation. Existing studies on victimisation show that especially students are affected by sexual victimisation. Their age as well as their life style makes them to a high risk target for rape, sexual harassment and stalking. Research shows that female victims of sexual violence partly terminate or change school, vocational training or studies. Studies show that female students express in general a higher fear of crime than male students.

Victimisation and fear of crime can have negative influences on studies. For this it is comprehensible that in the US – along an intense overall research on sexual violence – campus research is common and most of the universities have implemented special prevention programs for the reduction of victimisation of female students. The situation in Europe is different. Although practitioners working at universities (e.g. equal opportunity officers) do have an interest on dealing with sexual harassment and violence, until now there has been a lack of scientific research on this topic. In specific well-documented and evaluated intervention – or prevention-projects on gender based violence have not existed in European member states.

The victimisation of young women through sexual harassment, stalking and sexual violence, their fear of crime, and their need for support were the subject of an online questionnaire made available at universities in Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Britain to which some 22,000 students in all responded. An evaluation of these quantitative data was undertaken along with additional material gathered through interviews with both female students and with experts in support services and the criminal justice system. The resulting insights are used to formulate recommendations for strategic prevention and intervention to counter victimisation from sexual violence. The aim is to reduce young women’s fear of crime and to find ways of guaranteeing them improved support and greater security and safety at their places of study.


The planned study will contribute important data to our understanding about the prevalence and nature of violence against women in European countries by combining quantitative studies with qualitative interviews. Based on the transnational exchange of already developed and pre-tested methodological instruments Data on the dimension of sexual victimisation, stalking and fear of crime as well as on the need of help will be collected in five European countries. Further evidence is collected on existing help services in order to design a preventive and interventive programme to support female students in general and victims of sexual violence in specific.

The transnational cooperative research project closes the research gap in the European Union. It orientates itself at the campus research of English studies, though their results cannot be easily transferred to other countries like Germany, Italy, Spain or Poland.

Results and Innovation

The results themselves have filled a gap in relevant research on violence by confirming the introductory statement above, namely, that female students are affected to a higher than average extent by incidents of sexual violence, based on their age and their life circumstances. At the same time, an evaluation of the quantitative and qualitative data clearly shows that, contrary to the facts, the myth of the anonymous male perpetrator attacking women in public spaces in the dark stubbornly persists. The reality – that serious sexual assaults are carried out principally by individuals well known to the victim from their close circle of friends – is thus ignored by the women at the expense of their own safety. This may account for the result that, when assaulted by someone they know, female students often feel partly responsible for it and therefore tend to be reticent to tell anyone about what happened.

Overall, the project´s progress and its outcomes had a significant impact on different aspects:

  • Research: The elucidation of the research topic with regard to the nature of gender-based violence, stalking and female students’ fear of crime, the establishment of a broad and representative database for this topic, and a comprehensive explanatory model for the topic (including both transnational and culturally specific interpretations).
  • Research network: The establishment of and participation in a topic-based scientific network of European and US researchers, aimed at discussing, embedding and disseminating the results of the project.
  • Practice/professionals: The project made an important contribution to raising the awareness of different groups of professionals (stakeholders within the universities as well as those beyond, such as support services, police and the justice system) – in some cases for the first time ever. It got a new discourse going at universities, based on the quantitative and qualitative data available, and prompted the design and implementation of prevention and intervention programmes for reducing victimisation and supporting female student victims.
  • Universities: The launch of the survey highlighted the question of whether academic institutions, as students’ temporary educational and living environment, should feel responsible for such personal experiences and contribute actively to the prevention of sexual assault in any form. The response of the students to the survey showed that they value such a commitment by the university very highly. This perception enhances the general feeling of well-being at university for students.
  • Female students: Both the survey itself and the reported outcomes contributed to a greater awareness of a problem thus far largely neglected. It also brought to light the existing and widespread incidents of sexual violence as well as the need for adequate help from the university as an important player


Qantitative and qualitative research methods will be combined and utilized within a triangulation. The quantitative approach is fundamental for the determination of the dimension of victimisation and fear of crime as well as for the theory guided research on correlations between the variables. The study is planned as a representative longitudinal study. An important question answered in this context is on the influence of a change in lifestyle on different dimensions of fear of crime and respectively on possible sexual victimisation. Tackling students as target group focuses on one stage of life and social environment with its certain patterns, which have to be recognized in order to develop effective measures, victim services and prevention. This is the first study researching the consequences of victimisation and fear of crime on success of studies and testing several criminological to understand the phenomena better.

Questionnaire and Final Report

The questionnaire used for the second survey in all partner countries can be reviewed in the document of the Final Report of the project´s outcomes.
Final report printable Version (pdf 15,9 MB)
Final report smaller Version (pdf 14,4 MB)

Country Reports

Germany (English) (Deutsch)

Italy (English) (Italian)

Poland (English Part 1 part 2) (Polish part 1 part 2)

Spain (English) (Spanish)

United Kingdom (English)

Veröffentlichungen in Deutschland

Feltes/List: Sexuelle Gewalt an Hochschulen. In: die hochschule 2, 2015, S. 115-128