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NUS Reveals Shocking Scale of Sexual Violence at UK Universities

NUS Reveals Shocking Scale of Sexual Violence at UK Universities main image

New research by the NUS Women’s Campaign has found that sexual abuse is rife at UK universities and colleges, with 75 percent of students stating they’ve had at least one unwanted sexual experience.

The report, which is NUS’ first targeted piece of research into sexual harassment and violence specifically within further education, was based on a survey of 544 students, predominantly women, at UK universities and within three focus-groups at higher education colleges, and also found that one in seven respondents said they’d experienced attempted rape or unwanted sexual intercourse. Three in 10 students also reported feeling pressured to establish an unwanted romantic or sexual relationship, and one in three cases of sexual harassment are happening on campus, 13 percent of which are in the classroom.

Normalized behavior

However, only one in seven (14 percent) of surveyed students who’d experienced any form of unwanted sexual behavior said they’d reported it, with many students citing worries over someone else’s reaction as the reason they didn’t challenge the behavior. Meanwhile, bisexual students were significantly more likely than students of other sexual orientations to say their embarrassment was their reason for not reporting an incident to anyone.

Fear of revenge and violence were also cited as reasons that women didn’t want to report what’s happened to them, showing that more victim support is needed to help soothe these fears. As well as this, over a third of victims of unwanted sexual behavior go on to suffer depression or anxiety, with seven percent even attempting to end their own lives. 

The report has also raised fears over the normalization of sexual harassment and violence at higher education institutions, with some students feeling their experience wasn’t serious enough to report.

Sarah Lasoye, NUS women student’s officer, calls for ‘urgent responses’, in response to the report, arguing that “This culture has been normalized to such an extent that unhealthy sexual behavior has become harder to identify. While students may understand the concept of consent they struggle to put it into practice, with women fearing revenge and anger from men.”

And while NUS recognizes the recent progress made in the issue of sexual abuse at UK universities, it has stated its concern that higher education colleges, which have fewer resources, are trailing behind. It recommends that all higher education colleges work to improve their reporting procedures, provide better support services for the welfare and wellbeing of victims of sexual violence, and work to prevent further incidents by promoting healthy sexual behavior and alternative masculinities through workshops on consent and healthy relationships.

David Hughes, the chief executive of the Association of Colleges, commented on the sobering results of the report: “For most students, campuses are a safe space, with safeguarding at the heart of everything that colleges do. However, one act or threat of sexual violence is one too many.

“Reporting sexual violence and threats of sexual violence is never easy but we would urge students to speak to staff so that they can provide them with the right levels of support and protection and to help them to improve their zero-tolerance policies.”

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina edits and publishes articles which guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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