Female students report feeling unsafe at University

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London, UK, March 16th: A third of UK students report that sexual harassment is a major issue on campus – according to new research by Student Beans. Alarmingly, one-fifth of female students say they have been victim to sexism, assault or inappropriate whilst on campus. However when reported, only a third (38%) say that universities took action when complaints were made.

The findings also reveal a quarter (27%) of all female students admit to feeling unsafe at university within the past year, despite lockdown measures being in place.

Almost all (82%) of UK students believe that their universities should be doing better to tackle safety on campus, and even more (86%) feel that the UK government has a responsibility to safeguard them from sexism and sexual assault.

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Findings show that three-quarters (78%) of female students are changing the way they present themselves out of fear of being sexually harassed. This is because they believe it will prevent:

1. Being followed home by a stranger (64%)
2. Catcalling (50%)
3. Sexual harassment on public transport (44%)
4. Having their drink spiked (33%)
5. Sexual harassment at work (19%)
6. Date rape (17%)

Gendered sexism is also an issue, with a third of female students revealing that they have been treated unfairly in class because of their gender, compared to just 18% of male students.

Jessica Pinkett, Head of Youth Insights at Student Beans commented: “While students tell us they can’t wait to get back onto campus after lockdown, it’s sad to see that safety concerns could hold back female students from fully embracing university life. Universities must ensure that campuses are a safe environment for all students, and that they take action not only to prevent sexual assault and harassment, but also support for victims and hold perpetrators accountable.”

The findings also include suggestions from students for universities to better tackle sexism and safety on campus. A few of the highlights can be found below:

1. Better access to an anonymous complaint systems
2. Move away from teaching what can be done to avoid these issues, and teach why it shouldn’t happen in the first place
3. Better security across campus and halls, to better safeguard students
4. Better support for people who have experienced harassment
5. Ensure that complaints are being followed up
6. Counselling and self-defence workshops
7. Serious action and consequence, such as suspension/expulsion for those who commit crimes

What observations have you made about sexual misconduct/sexist inappropriate behaviour on your University campus? Sexism and inappropriate behaviour towards other students are a concern shared amongst my friendship groups.

What do you think can be done to tackle this issue? More preventative measures need to be in place, such as providing education for young people on what is and isn’t appropriate before starting university.

What responsibilities do universities have to better safeguard their students? Uni’s must provide an open space or platform where problems around sexism, assault and misbehaviour can be discussed freely and openly.

What can the government do to drive this initiative? Support systems need to be driven by the government to provide protective measures from students, from early schooling through to university.

What observations have you made about sexual misconduct/ sexist inappropriate behaviour on your University campus? Sexism, misconduct and inappropriate behaviour are gravely impacting student safety, and I’ve seen it affect almost anybody – regardless of what they study, their age, background or gender.

What do you think can be done to tackle this issue? We must empower students with the confidence to turn down social pressures (i.e. excessive drinking or going to environments where we’re unsure of) more comfortably.

What responsibilities do universities have to better safeguard their students? All universities have a responsibility to safeguard students, especially younger students. A lot of us are living away from home for the first time, without any guidance from others around what behaviour is acceptable or not.

What can the government do to drive this initiative? The Government should set out clear guidelines on how to report inappropriate sexual behaviour. They need to highlight the consequence result for those who are harming other students in this way.

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