Katie O'Malley | Contributing Writer | Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A Third Of Female Students Have Been Sexually Harassed, So What's Being Done About It?

The Debrief: Universities have been ordered to challenge the cultural problems which lead 43% of female students to not report the sexual harassment or rapes they experience...

University is meant to be a time for learning, partying and sleeping. It's an environment where you should be able to study, engage with fellow students and almost break your knees in an attempt to dance to dub step withouth the possibility of being heckled, jeered, touched up or assaulted by any half-brained idiot justifying their behaviour as 'banter' or 'a laugh'. No girl, or boy for that matter, should have their student life affected by unwanted sexual behaviour. However, unfortunately the statistics show that our institutions for the intellegentsia are places where 43% of female victims and 6/10 male victims of harassment, assaults or rape don't even feel safe reporting it.

With nights such as ‘Freshers Violation’ featuring a promotional video of male students talking about ‘violating’ female students in Leeds last year and the return of the University of Exeter’s notorious Safer Sex Ball involving girls dressing up in lingerie in a weird attempt to promote protected sex, it is not surprising that there has been a growing concern about the safety of female students in the UK.  

A third of female students in Britain have experienced sexual assault or ‘inappropriate touching or groping’, according to research released today by Youthsight. The report came in conjuction with the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) who are warning universities and colleges to investigate allegations of indecent sexual behaviour on campus, and not to brush it off as ‘a purely external police matter’.


READ MORE: These American Students Are Taking Rape Reporting Into Their Own Hands

The Telegraph reports that out of the female students questioned, 31% said that they had endured inappropriate sexual behaviour while one in 20 admitted to being forced into sexual activity or experienced unwelcome sexual advances from male students. 

Too many nights out at university have become synonymous with drinking and a boorish lad culture. Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, has this to say: 'Students are experiencing sexism, sexual harassment and assault within the university environment'.

The behaviour is so prevalent - and presumably unchecked that the report has also shown that one in eight male students have also been subjected to groping or unwanted advances which goes to show that universities are becoming hugely sexualised environments, but the sort of sexualisation that's just a bit grim.

Kirsty Rhodes, a second year undergraduate at the University of Leeds tells The Debrief: ‘Guys walk past you and grab your bum thinking its okay and, worryingly, girls accept it because it’s become so normal. Sadly, I think some girls see it as a compliment.’

‘You can’t go out any more and have a good time without being a bit wary of how boys might behave,' she adds: 'I think that if you’re on a university night out, the university has a responsibility to ensure you’re safe and uphold that reputation.’

READ MORE: 'My Rapist Added Me On Facebook'. The Truth About Sexual Assault At Oxford University

Today's Spotted: Obligations to Protect Women Students’ Safety & Equality report warns all higher education institutions that failure to investigate sexual assault allegations may be prosecuted for neglecting their legal responsibilities. 

Sarah Green, director of the EVAW’s Coalition said: ‘There are alarming reports about levels of sexual assault in UK universities and we believe universities and further education colleges are not doing enough to prevent these. Our new briefing shows that the law already requires universities and further education institutions to take steps to ensure women students’ safety.

‘We know that some women students have dropped out of university following abuse that was not adequately dealt with by the institution. This cannot be allowed to continue,’ she added. 

READ MORE: Banter Is Just A Way Of Silencing Rape Culture On Student Campuses

According to the EVAW Coalition's research, over half of female students know a friend or relative who have experiences unwanted sexual behavior, ranging from groping to rape.

Toni Pearce, the president of the NUS tells The Debrief:  'I think it is incredible that many institutions seem prepared to ignore the assault and harassment that is a sad reality for some students. It’s not enough to deplore it, we need action against it. I now reiterate my call for universities to join us in our work to ensure that the UK student experience is safe and inclusive. We are all responsible for this.'

In November 2014, the NUS launched #ReclaimYourCampus, a 16-day campaign focusing on activism against gender violence. One of the campaign’s pledges urged universities to examine the level of harassment and assault on campus and publicly publish the results. In a further bid to combat sexual violence on campus, the NUS have created an auditing tool for student unions to monitor how they are dealing with violence against women on campus.

Student unions have until Monday 26 January 2015 to submit their results. Questions can be submitted to ladculture@nus.org.uk and the guidance downloaded here

You might also be interested in:

We Went To The New 'Good Lad' Workshop At Oxford University And Here's What Happened

Here's A Worrying Sign That Frat Boy Culture Has Officially Hit The UK

Women Get Payout From University Following Terrible Respons To Rape And Sexual Assault Reports

Follow Katie on Twitter: @Kati3OMalley 

Tags: Sexual Assault, Education, Rape