CW: sexual harassment, sexual assault
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.
33% of students have no knowledge about where to seek support if they experience sexual violence.
Experiencing sexual violence as a student has a long and lasting impact on the survivor, an impact that is only exacerbated by sexual assault and harassment being a ‘normal’ part of university culture, and not knowing anything about how or where to seek support.
Here, students share some of the painful long-term effects their experiences of sexual violence have had on their life, their education, and changed forever their opinion of university:
“I would never advise a student to speak up. They will be sorry they did. It’s not worth it – you’ll feel blamed and be considered a problem. And there’s no confidentiality. I wouldn’t ever trust the university, they just don’t care”
“I don’t feel a sense of community. I don’t feel like I’m accepted or wanted by my university. I don’t feel valued. I feel like I was a headache for them and they were glad that I left and wouldn’t be their responsibility anymore”
“Universities need to start seeing this for what it is, something that is present and affecting all aspects of our lives”
“I feel sick about the ‘experience’ and I make sure I tell every single potential student what to expect at British unis”
“I thought my experience was bad, and somewhat the exception, but then I was let down by the university and the SU not once but twice, and I saw it happen so many times all around me”
“During my year abroad in Hong Kong, I was able to experience how another university deals with such issues (as well as with mental health) and I feel my UK university’s approach is so poor in comparison”
“I felt alone and ashamed because of my experiences. I missed almost all of my lectures and seminars due to my resulting depression and the university did nothing to reach out to me to make sure I was okay, despite my department knowing my situation in regards the assaults”
“Seeing the effect that rape had and continues to have on a very good friend of mine is devastating, particularly seeing how little the university did to help her”
“The counselling services at my University refused to talk about my rape. They said it’s better to not open up ‘Pandora’s box’”
“I honestly do not believe my university cares about sexual assault or harassment. I think they see it as a nuisance subject”
“I ended up leaving my course due to the events which happened as it seriously affected my mental health. It affected me a lot more than I thought it would and it still does”
“The inadequacy of my university’s response to the sexual assault considerably worsened the effect that the rape had on me”
“I just don’t feel safe walking across campus at night on my own”
“We do not trust college staff to deal with sexual assault/harassment properly or confidentially”
“My university’s approach is appalling. They believe ‘boys will be boys’”
“I am no longer at my university, but can honestly say the sexist culture when I was there was terrible – especially in the first year. I did not feel safe or respected, and my concerns were always brushed off as too over the top and making a big deal out of nothing. I have always felt embarrassed and ashamed of what happened, and now my understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment and assault has crystallized, so has my anger at the university and what happened to me”
“My life has life has been horribly impacted by the violence I experienced. I could have stayed on track and stayed in my masters course and not ended up in A&E twice if there was actual structured support from my university”
“Everyone talks about rape like it’s black and white and it’s easy to deal with. But the nature of friends assaulting friends is MESSY. The guilt felt by the victim for ruining their former friends’ life is major. So many women feel they have been to blame in some way that they don’t see reporting it as fair or necessary”
“Universities treat sexual violence as a PR fiasco rather than an opportunity to show institutional compassion and real zero tolerance. Handle it properly and it’ll actually benefit your reputation!”
“The sports teams know they can get away with anything because they’re the star team players – they’ll never get thrown out of the university, whatever they do”
“Perpetrators deliberately target women who are vulnerable – low self-esteem, low assertiveness, over-trusting, drunk. Virtually every single close female friend I have who has dated at uni has been coerced into sexual acts they didn’t want to do”
“A student committed suicide at this university after being raped and it disgusts me that the university still does nothing”
“I believe my university is a dangerous place for female and LGBT+ students. Students are not prepared for how incredibly pervasive the rape culture is at university”
“I reported so many times being harassed; nothing ever happens and it’s destroying me. I can’t wait to leave university.”
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.