Trigger Warning: Sexual violence, sexual harassment, rape.
The Students’ Union has published the findings of its report into students’ experience of sexual harassment and violence during their time at Sussex.
Nearly 350 students answered a survey about their experience of sexual harassment, non-consensual sexual contact and how safe they feel on and off campus.
Key findings of the report include:
61% of all respondents had experienced sexual harassment, which could include catcalling, wolf-whistling, unwanted comments with a sexual overtone, groping, and sexual contact without consent. 48% of all respondents had experienced sexual harassment on more than one occasion.
53% of all respondents had experienced non-consensual sexual contact, which could include kissing, touching or molesting, including through clothes, compared to 16% when respondents nationwide were asked the same question in NUS’ Hidden Marks report (2010).
60% of female respondents said they sometimes feel unsafe when visiting Sussex University in the evening, nearly two-thirds higher than the national average from the 2010 NUS Hidden Marks report.
92% of LGBT+ respondents had experienced someone attempting to touch them sexually without consent. 34% of LGBT+ students had experienced non-consensual sexual contact on more than one occasion.
Over 90% of respondents who had experienced non-consensual sexual contact and sexual harassment identified the offender as male.
Only 3% of all respondents reported incidents of sexual harassment and non-consensual sexual contact. These 3% may have reported to the University, the police or the Students’ Union. When the other 97% were asked why did not report incidents, over 6 in 7 didn’t think the incident was serious enough, nearly 1 in 6 felt ashamed or embarrassed and 1 in 8 thought they would be blamed for what happened.
Read the report in full
The results of the survey will be used to direct the future of some Students’ Union campaigns, and the University’s work to combat ‘lad culture’ and sexual harassment and violence towards students at Sussex.
Rianna, Students’ Union Welfare Officer, said:
The fact over half the students asked are telling us they have experienced non-consensual sexual contact shows us this is a problem the University and Students’ Union need to address immediately. Today marks the start of 16 days of action against gender-based violence. This will be marked with events across the city, including Reclaim Brighton on 4th December, a march campaigning for an end to sexual violence and harassment in our community.
Alongside running I Heart Consent and developing a strategy to combat ‘lad culture’, the Students’ Union is partnering with NUS to pilot #StandByMe, a campaign connecting the Union with our local Rape Crisis centre, Survivors’ Network. We will be working together to provide support for student survivors of sexual assault.”
Reclaim Brighton is an evolution of the very popular Reclaim the Night event. Hundreds of students and local residents will be marching through the streets of Brighton on Friday 4th December to demand the right to live without fear of sexual harassment and violence, alongside raising funds for Rise and Survivors’ Network. In preparation for the march, a banner making session took place in Falmer House Common Room this afternoon. Students and local residents are also invited to volunteer as stewards for the evening.
As part of the #StandByMe campaign with NUS, from today purple squares will be available to pick up from the Students’ Union for you to wear. We encourage your to wear your purple square, take a picture/selfie wearing it, and upload it to social media using the #StandByMe hashtag (as students and Rianna have done in the picture above) to express your solidarity with survivors of sexual assault at Sussex and beyond.
One of the aims of #StandByMe is to call for the repeal of the Zellick guidelines in higher education, a 1994 report recommending that Universities shouldn’t investigate cases of rape and sexual assault on their campuses and leave matters to the police. The author of the report, Prof Graham Zellick, has since said UK Universities should have a mandatory duty to record allegations of sexual violence, and The End Violence Against Women Coalition argues the report’s influence has left sexual assault survivors who do not go to the police without proper support from their institutions. (via The Guardian). The hope is for new, up-to-date disciplinary guidelines and survivor support in these cases, including the input of student groups and specialist services.