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The Sexual Violence Epidemic at UK Universities

Consent Collective workshop at Edinburgh University

This blog post was written by Simran Grewal, a recent graduate.

University is an important milestone for a lot of students, the beginning of their journey into adulthood. For many, it’s a time to explore independence and mingle with new people, whilst discovering new levels of knowledge. However, these university experiences are increasingly becoming tainted, as sexual violence and harassment across universities in the UK are becoming prevalent.

In 2018, Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room conducted research that found ‘62% of all students and recent graduates surveyed had experienced sexual violence’. Further research showed that only ‘6% of those who had experienced sexual assault or harassment reported their experience to the university’ and only ‘2% felt both able to report it to their university and were then satisfied with the reporting processes‘. These statistics suggest that universities aren’t meeting their responsibilities in making campuses safe, and responding appropriately when assaults do happen.

An example of a university incident regarding sexual violence and harassment, is the infamous incident that has become known as the ‘University of Warwick Rape Chat’ that occurred in 2018. Male students had made horrific rape threats against their female peers on a group chat, and although two of the students were banned from the campus for 10 years, this sentence was reduced to 12 months, raising concerns about the way in which the university was handling the investigation, and their priorities in ensuring the safety and care of their students. The way in which universities respond to reports of sexual violence, sets a precedence concerning student wellbeing. However, ‘many universities in England have no dedicated staff to investigate hate crimes or sexual misconduct’, whilst some universities ‘use the same disciplinary hearings for sexual violence that they use for plagiarism’. The lack of staff, regulations, and aftercare at Universities negatively impacts students who need the support, resulting in feelings of isolation.

The common phrase, ‘prevention is better than the cure’, should be taken into account by Universities in regards to sexual violence. A survey conducted by Brook & Dig-In, found that ‘only 15% said unwanted sexual behaviour counted as sexual harassment, and only half (52%) said they understood that someone could not consent to sex if they were drunk’. This shows the lack of understanding surrounding sexual violence and harassment, and perhaps, preventative measures such as better sex education in schools, are urgently needed. Nevertheless, not all Universities are neglecting their duty. For example, Edinburgh University recently held events focused on the importance of consent during their Fresher’s Week, in collaboration with the Consent Collective.

If you have been affected by sexual violence at university, you can speak to our friendly team about emotional and practical support available to you on 0121 643 0301 or Or call the helpline on 0121 643 4136

Posted 20 August 2019

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