CW: sexual harassment, sexual assault, emotional abuse
4-10 February 2019 is UK Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness week #itsnotok.
Every day this week we are sharing testimony from students all across the UK about the reality of the sexual assault and harassment they experience at university.
Every story and statistic shared this week comes from the national consultation conducted by Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room, where 4,500 students and recent graduates from 153 different institutions shared their experiences. For more insights into this consultation, see our Research.
Thinking about sharing your own story? Connect with us here.
39% of students who have experienced sexual assault or harassment were made to feel responsible for the incidents.
The reasons survivors feel this way highlight just how prolific the culture of victim-blaming and acceptance of abusive behaviour are in our society.
In response to just one survey question, hundreds upon hundreds of students shared chilling statements just like these:
I was made to feel responsible….
“…because I was being flirty”
“…when I was told that if I wasn’t wearing the clothes I was wearing, people wouldn’t grope me”
“…because I was made to feel naïve for not ‘knowing what was going to happen'”
“…for not saying no loud enough”
“…because I was too drunk”
“…for having ‘too many male friends'”
“…when I told a friend and she said it was my fault for engaging in casual relationships”
“…that it was my fault for drinking and being out in a club. That I should have expected it would happen when going out drinking”
“…because I agreed to have dinner at his place, he assumed I would agree to have sex”
“…for being blunt/explicit in the way I speak about sex and relationships”
“…for sexual harassment, because it was ‘just a joke’ and I need to ‘lighten up'”
“…he told me he was a gentleman, so he could never do anything like that, and that I liked having sex, especially with him”
“…they implied the fact I had Snapchat meant I wanted to receive unsolicited explicit photos”
“…for looking too confident, standing out, and visibly being in a same-sex relationship”
“…because the skirt I wore was ‘an answered prayer’ for him”
“…for “giving the wrong impression'”
“…my autism means I have difficulty reading social cues. I feel like it’s my fault for not being neurotypical enough to understand”
“…when my friend and I were catcalled and followed, they told us to ‘lighten the f**k up'”
“…when I was shouted at for being frigid, unfriendly, a lesbian, and a dog”
“….they described it as something I needed”
“…as I was apparently the one being suggestive and being a “tease'”
“…that the stealthing was my fault because we had previously had unprotected sex, but since then I had changed my mind”
“…when the police said that because I was passive during the incident it must have been consensus”
“…because I am an open person who laughs at sexual jokes, so when people push it too far they argue I was finding it funny initially”
“…because ‘your bum wanted to be grabbed'”
“…when catcalled, because I’m ‘pretty and should take it as a compliment'”
“…because they said they didn’t know I was asleep”
“…because I said ‘stop’ a lot but I didn’t explicitly say ‘no’. I didn’t physically pull away – I was scared – so it was my fault”
“…he claimed I was leading him on and he couldn’t help it”
“…the uni counsellor told me I just liked men making decisions for me”
“…because I was made to feel like she was the victim and I was the perpetrator when actually it was the other way round”
“…because I’d encouraged flirty behaviour, although I changed my mind later, it was my fault he had gotten worked up. I didn’t want to have sex but he led me to believe I had to go through with it”
“…when my mother immediately asked me what I had done to get that reaction from the men in question”
“…because I allowed him to stay after he ‘lost his keys'”
“…when I was told it was my fault and I deserved it. That I enjoyed it and I should feel flattered”
“…because I kissed him back and wanted to do certain sexual things but not others”
“…because he was my boyfriend he blamed me for no longer being comfortable with things I once was”
“…when the university didn’t think it was a serious matter, and that I was trying to ruin his life”
“… as I had a stalker and reported him several times to the university, but they didn’t do anything but tell me to be clearer when rejecting him. The police told me I should be grateful for having an admirer”
“…because it was my responsibility to have sex with my partner”
“…when I discovered afterwards he had assaulted several other people. I felt this was my fault too”
“…because my rapist called me a slut and made other degrading comments, it made me feel like I deserved it”
“…like it was my fault because I didn’t look after myself and I ‘should know better’ as a woman”
“…I was told that it’s the way it is, and to just deal with it”
“…because he paid for the taxi”
“…when he took advantage of my disability – I didn’t have the physical strength to fight back so he told me my passiveness was inviting it”
“…because I should have known not to let my ‘friend’ buy me drinks. I should have been more responsible. I should have seen what his true intentions were. I put too much trust in someone who was practically a stranger”
“…when I was a victim of revenge porn I was made to feel like it was my fault because I took the pictures”
“…my friends told me I ‘know what he’s like when he’s drunk, he didn’t mean anything bad by it’, that I was overreacting”
“…when my friend said ‘she probably never meant it’. I saw the look in her eyes. She meant it.”
There is absolutely zero truth or legitimacy to any of these so-called reasons or justifications.
Sexual assault or harassment is not your fault. It is never, ever your fault.
Sexual violence is a crime, no matter who commits it or where it happens. Don’t be afraid to get help. Find information, support and advice here – and if you are in need of urgent medical care or attention, call 999.