More than half of university students are the victim of inappropriate behavior, harassment, abuse or exploitation in the UK. Reports say 53% of university students have experienced inappropriate touching, unwanted advances, and assault, including being followed, explicit messages and forced into sex.
This survey on sexual violence and harassment at UK universities also identified a significant gap in students’ understanding of consent and what constitutes sexual harassment and violence.
The study found that with 49% of women reporting they had been touched inappropriately, compared with 3% of men. Nearly two-thirds of women surveyed said they did not feel confident in saying any to sex for fear it might lead to violence.
Helen Marshall, the chief executive of Brook, a young people’s sexual health and well-being charity said, “It’s really important that universities provide students with information and education on sexual harassment and the law, and ensure that their reporting procedures and support services are accessible and welcoming.”
Dr. Anna Bull, the co-founder of the 1752 Group, which was set up to address staff-student sexual harassment in higher education, said the study confirmed “a pattern of high levels of sexual harassment and violence experienced especially by female students, but with low levels of reporting to the police or to the institution”.
She said that despite many universities changing the way they handled sexual misconduct, “there remains a huge amount of work to be done to effectively prevent and respond to it”.
A third-year undergraduate student at a university in Leeds made a complaint. The student said, “the lecturer who investigated her complaint asked her how much she had been drinking before the alleged assault, leaving her feeling further distress and humiliation”.
Frustrated with the university’s handling of her complaint, the student went to the police last autumn. She said: “The police took me more seriously”. She was reluctant to appeal against the university’s investigation because “it’s been an absolutely humiliating process”.