Understanding the Problem

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The prevalence of violence, abuse and harassment is an ongoing problem on university campuses within the UK (Universities UK, 2016).  77% of students who participated in a University of Cambridge study reported experiencing sexual harassment and 28.5% reported experiencing sexual assault (Cambridge, 2014). Similarly, an NUS study (2014) found that 37% of female respondents said they had faced unwelcome sexual advances. In addition, one third of student respondents said they had endured unwanted sexual comments about their body.

Crucially, two thirds of student respondents said they had seen other students put up with unwanted sexual comments. This means that two thirds of respondents had been witnesses to this problematic behaviour towards other people: they themselves weren’t the perpetrator, they weren’t on the receiving on the problematic behaviour. They were a witness, a bystander. If those students had felt able to intervene when they witnessed that problematic behaviour, the outcome for the victim could have been very different. 

A large-scale questionnaire was completed by Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room in 2018 to determine the scale of the problem. They evaluated 4491 responses from students and recent graduates at 153 UK universities. The findings suggest that sexual harassment, violence and abuse remains a significant problem. 62% of participants reported experiencing sexual violence (70% of female participants and 26% of male participants), with groping or unwanted sexual touching being the most common form of sexual assault.

The full report is available to view.

Unfortunately, there are many examples of problematic behaviours at UK universities, which highlight the need for action. For example: