What my university needs to do better on the issue of sexual violence… #itsnotok

CW: sexual harassment, sexual assault

4-10 February 2019 is UK Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness week #itsnotok

Read more: 7 February 2019 – What my university is doing well on the issue of sexual violence…

Read more: 6 February 2019 – The impact on my education and life at university… #itsnotok

Read more: 5 February 2019 – I didn’t report it to the university… #itsnotok

Read more: 4 February 2019 – I was made to feel responsible… #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

Academic consequences faced by student survivors of sexual violence include:

  • 25% of students considering or engaging in skipping lectures, tutorials, and changing or dropping certain modules to avoid the perpetrators
  • 16% considering or engaging in suspending their studies or dropping out of their degree entirely

While universities of course are not responsible for fact that sexual violence exists, they are responsible for acting to mitigate the impacts that sexual assault and harassment can have on a student’s education. 

Here, students share what they wish their universities would do to adequately support them and ensure their fair and equal access to education: 

“There aren’t enough counsellors available to support survivors – I’ve been on a waiting list for four months so far to see a specialist”

“Making students more aware of the reporting process and offering more support to these students. Make it clearer where to seek support, who to report incidents to, what your rights are and make the university policy easily accessible”

“There should be more specific support tailored to trans people, LGBTQI+ and BAME communities”

“Highlight what a student can do if they find themselves in such a situation, but also to highlight what the effect would be on a perpetrator in terms of their education”

“Make the ways to report sexual assault and harassment clearer and simpler”

“Be open to anonymous stories and comments to understand the scope of the problem”

“There should actually be some form of punishment for perpetrators – as far as I’m aware there isn’t really a system in place and people are never actually told that inappropriate behaviour will be punished”

“University should make it clearer who you’re actually supposed to talk to about this”

“I have no idea if there is an office/room for advice or help with these issues but if there isn’t one there should be specifically for issues of a sexual nature”

“Make students aware that there are people and programmes set up so they can discuss what they’ve been through”

“Create a dialogue around sexual assault so it can become less of a taboo subject”

“I think more needs to be done to relate it to actual events. Everyone can understand that theoretically touching someone sexually whilst they’re unconscious is assault but I think more specific practical examples are required”

“Give sports and societies the power to exclude people who continually make others feel uncomfortable”

“Have a dedicated trained team who know how to treat survivors of sexual assault and take us seriously”

“Make clear what to do once it’s happened as well as how to avoid it”

“Stop perpetuating the myth of exclusively male predators. Everyone should think of their actions”

“Put more resources into current programmes and developing a more visible structure for supporting survivors”

“Clearer definitions about what is and isn’t acceptable. People ought to feel more threatened by potential punishment for sexual assault/harassment, and know it will be taken very seriously. I don’t feel like this is known and this issue is often taken quite trivially”

“Make it easier to report what people see as ‘lesser’ incidents like verbal harassment etc. and take these incidents seriously”

“Run compulsory sessions on consent, sexual harassment and assault, just like they do with academic honesty. This would at least mean we know everyone is equally informed”

“Collaborate more closely with local businesses and council to protect students. For example, have meetings with bars and nightclubs to encourage them to train their staff to deal with sexual assault”

“Have a well-funded mental health unit”

“Make how to report clearer and also give more lectures/lessons etc. about how to stay safe at night but also how not to harass/assault someone (e.g. what is flirting, what is harassment)”

“Make the process more private and confidential”

“More targeted intervention work as well as focus on victims”

“Take accusations seriously and have more awareness regarding what is and what isn’t acceptable on campus”

“It should be made clear that assault and harassment of any kind can lead to expulsion and take a more active role in investigating accusations by or against a student”

“Making information easy to access and making victims feel heard and supported. Provide access to facilities such as counselling to help them if they have experienced trauma”

“Help survivors and if necessary keep their information confidential”

“Help the person to be empowered at all stages, and be in control of what happens to them during the reporting process”

“Make consent workshops part of mandatory health and safety talks at the beginning of first year”

“Actually tell people where to get support, and reassure that something will actually be done, because if nothing is done it makes people less likely to report the next time it happens”

“Display more openness about assaults that have occurred to students”

“Tackling ‘lad culture’ and those who don’t take issues like groping and cat-calling seriously”

“Say that it is never the fault of victims and stop this culture of victim blaming”

“Putting more information out about what to do if it occurs, as I’m sure there are procedures in place, but I’m just unaware of what they are and where they are”

“More frequent emails and small meetings within lectures at the start of the year for all year groups both Freshers and current students. Addressing both women AND men too, about how and where to seek help”

“Make more security staff available on campus to keep us safe”

“Offer counselling support, links with the local police and provided protective items, such as rape alarms”

“Make it very clear about where and who to report incidents to and direct survivors to support services”

“Provide more information about where to seek help/make societies or groups where people can open up about experiences. Also, raise awareness about the stigma that revolves around males being perceived as weak or what not if they speak up regarding any experiences”

“Set up something online where you can report anonymously”

“Speak more publically about it: the progress happening is largely run by societies not the university itself”

“They should be directly addressing the issue of consent/sexual assault/harassment and shouldn’t just mention it at the end of a welcome talk as an after-thought”

“There should be flyers/posters around campus and halls of residence with appropriate numbers or locations as to where you can report incidents and also informative posters on what is consent”

“Take a more active role in understanding the sheer volume of vulnerable people that are taken advantage of in and around campus”

“Speaking about it more openly, showing they support victims, having serious punishments in place for perpetrators, not promoting or supporting the culture that creates space for these things to happen”

“Care and support for victims such as a short break or temporary deadline extension”

“Have an open door somewhere, where you don’t have to formally report, but just talk”

“There should be more information regarding everyday cases of harassment and assault because I think people tend only to associate it with rape or physical violence. And have more information to encourage people to reflect on their own behaviour and that of people around them – so everyone is making more of a conscious effort to make people feel safer.”

Find Support

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.

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