Reporting Sexual Assault at Uni

University is supposed to be some of your greatest years, yet 62% of students will experience sexual assault at some point. Here's how to report it

Feature by Katie Goh | 13 Sep 2018

Whether it’s wandering hands under skirts, drinks being spiked, physically having to put myself between a gang of agitated men and disinterested friends, or rescuing a drunk girl from being taken away by a group of men – I have enough anecdotes of experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment as a student to fill a book. Ask any woman and LGBTQ+ person and they’ll agree: incidences of sexual violence without consent aren’t shocking or rare – they’re an expected everyday reality of going to clubs and parties as a student.

Earlier this year, a survey found that three in five students have been sexually assaulted and harassed at university and 8% of female students have been raped. The report was carried out by Revolt Sexual Assault, a nationwide campaign founded by Hannah Price after she herself was raped by another student. While the statistics are shocking and proof that campus sexual assault is at an epidemic level in the UK, perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the report is that only 2% of people who have been harassed or assaulted at university reported their experience. Whether it’s dismissing being groped in a club or feeling unsure of how to go about reporting an assault, we live in a culture where sexual harassment is seen as the norm.

Looking back, I didn’t report witnessing or experiencing assault because, frankly, I didn’t know how to go about doing it or whether it could even be reported. This seems to be a universal experience for students. When Revolt Sexual Assault asked students who have been assaulted why they didn’t report it, 29% didn’t know how to make a report to their university, 35% felt too ashamed, and 56% didn’t think it was serious enough to report.                     

Sexual assault at university is so rampant because students don’t feel supported enough to report incidences. Revolt Sexual Assault’s report describes groping, rape, harassment, and coercion (by both other students and staff) as commonplace in universities. Yet despite the level of sexual violence endemic in UK universities, there is no legislation for how colleges or universities are meant to handle complaints about sexual violence. The lack of a universal procedure makes it difficult for sexual assault charities and organisations to give recommendations for students. 

Sexual assault exists on a spectrum, from rape jokes and catcalling to being groped and assaulted, and all levels of violence inform each other. It includes physical assaults as well as verbal aggression, such as inappropriate comments and jokes, unsolicited dick pics, and being harassed or followed in the street. If you’re in a club or bar and experience harassment, you’re within your legal rights to report it to a member of staff and inform the police as sexual harassment was made an illegal offence in 2010. If you experience harassment on campus or are affected by sexual violence while you’re a student, your university has a responsibility to offer counselling and support. Most universities now have specially trained welfare officers to handle sexual violence reports. 

University is supposed to be one of the greatest experiences of your life. You’re newly independent and figuring your shit out – reporting sexual harassment should be the last thing on your mind. No matter how silly or serious an incident, if somebody does something to make you feel uncomfortable, you have every right to report it and your university has a duty of care to listen and act.  

If you have been affected by rape or sexual abuse, you can contact Rape Crisis on 08088010302 (Scotland).