Trigger Warning: Sexual violence, rape and assault
Only around 25% of students who have been raped go onto report it to the police, a new survey suggests.
In the survey, run by sexual health charity Brook, nearly half (49%) of all female students surveyed reported being inappropriately touched, in comparison to only 3% of males. Only 5% of these went on to report it to authority figures, including police and staff at their university.
More than half of all respondents reported facing sexual harassment or violence from a fellow student. Almost a third of incidents were said to take place on campus itself.
A total of 5,649 people took part in the student survey, which is thought to be the largest survey of its kind.
There were 112 women and 18 men who said they had been raped at universities in the UK.
Only 8% of all students who say they have received unwanted sexual behaviours, such as inappropriate touching, explicit messages, cat-calling, being followed, or being forced into sex or sexual acts, have reported it. Comparatively, in 2018, the Office for National Statistics stated that less than 20% of all victims of sexual assaults report them to police.
Other findings within the report suggest that there is room for improvement in terms of students’ knowledge about consent.
Only half of students (52%) understood that if someone is drunk (incapacitated by alcohol), they are unable to give consent. Some 18% said they didn’t know.
Alongside this, only 15% of students surveyed realised that the unwanted sexual behaviours they had received whilst being at university constitute sexual harassment.
A very small percentage did not know that it was necessary to consent each time you had sex or that you could be sexually assaulted by a partner.
Positively, 90% of respondents did report feeling confident say “no” to unwanted sexual advances. Those who reported not feeling confident to refuse to give consent cited fear of violence as a motivating factor.
However, only half of respondents reported being taught about consent and only a third had ever received education about what constitutes harassment.
In response to these figures, Helen Marshall, Chief Executive of Brook, said: “We are failing our young people if they don’t know the law protects them from the unwanted behaviours they are experiencing.”
Faye Brookes-Lewis, Community and Wellbeing Officer, flagged services available for students at the LSE who may need support: “The best way for students to get support if they have experienced sexual harassment is by getting in touch with a safe contact at LSE. Safe contacts are members of LSE staff who have received enhanced sexual violence training and can offer a confidential ‘signposting’ service for students. They are also able to explain the processes involved if a student wishes to make a formal or informal complaint to LSE. You can find out more about them by googling LSE safe contacts.
“From next year onwards consent education will be included in Welcome Week for all incoming LSE students. There is also an online course about consent called ‘Consent Matters’ which can be found on Moodle.”
The consent training format has come after months of campaigning led by the SU Women’s Officer Katie Tesseyman.
Julia, an LSE student, shared their response to the findings, saying that often the “whole experience of reporting can be invasive and stressful” and that one way of countering the issue is to create a “targeted support network”. They said: “Universities need to recognize how frequently this happens and that it is also the universities’ responsibility to have a space for women (and run by women) to provide support, advice and safety to survivors.”
They also emphasised they need to engage with questions about consent during earlier education as well, telling The Beaver: “I think boys need to learn, not men! Sex is a big part of people’s lives, and in order for people to flourish in their sexuality, they need to learn basic tenets of consent and communication during sex.”