NUS: 1 in 7 female students sexually assaulted

One in seven female students has been the victim of serious sexual assault or serious physical violence while at university, says a recent National Union of Students (NUS) report.

The report, which surveyed over 2,000 female students in the UK, also found that 25% had been subjected to “an unwanted sexual experience while at university or college”.

The commissioner of the ‘Hidden Marks’ report, NUS National Women’s Officer, Olivia Bailey, has described the results as “disturbing”.

Bailey continued: “It is particularly worrying that the perpetrators in many of these cases are fellow students.” This was the case in 60% of these cases of sexual assault.

Furthermore, the report claims that only 10% of female students who have been seriously sexually assaulted have reported the incident to the police.

Only 4% reported their attack to their University. When asked why not, 50% of those who did not report to the police said they felt ashamed or embarrassed, while 43% thought they were “to blame for the violence committed against them.”

Bailey said that the report has highlighted the fact that, “not enough is being done to encourage women students to report all instances of assault or harassment to their institutions or to the police.”

She went on to describe the report as a “wake-up call”, saying that students must be left in “no doubt that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Sandra Horley OBE, of the domestic violence charity Refuge, said: “It is vital that universities create an environment where women feel confident to speak out against abuse. Female students need to know where they can seek help, and must feel sure that their reports will be taken seriously. Women have the right to enjoy university life, focus on their studies and plan for their futures, without fear of intimidation of violence.”

YUSU Women’s Officer, Charlotte Philips, stated: “This report highlights the need for greater provisions, and crucially greater awareness of the existing provisions on campuses. We will work with the welfare team to create a greater awareness of services such as Nightline and the Open Door Team, whilst discussing with local authorities the potential of local specialist provisions for those who experience sexual assault or rape. We are planning an ‘End Violence Against Women’ campaign in the Autumn Term in which intends to help clarify people’s understanding of the boundaries of consent.”


  1. 5 May ’10 at 12:54 pm

    It's about time...

    I know several female students at York who have been attacked by other students, generally in their own rooms or homes after inviting the attacker in. None of them reported it, and said that people found out, but the majority of students implied that it was their fault because they invited the attacker in, ‘the bloke was just drunk, he didn’t mean anything’, and that it probably wasn’t as upsetting as the female student made out.

    This is a major issue that needs a great deal of work put into it. People need to stop blaming the victim: now.

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  2. I agree. I know a number of people in York in a similar situation and the fact that it isn’t a crime statistic means that people who could make a difference generally tend to ignore it. Personally, I think that this is the most important issue that I’ve seen in the campus press – but it’s hard to know what to do about it other than raising awareness?

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  3. It’s a byproduct of student culture. You put a lot of drunken people together then stuff will go wrong. Things will break, fights will happen, and in this case sexual assault will too.

    But- there is no way for a female to report it without being judged or have to be fearful. Say it was a flatmate, what are you supposed to do if he gropes you in freshers or is a tad too forceful? Report it to the police, where many believe nothing would get done (probably true) and be disassociated from your flat etc for the rest of the year, or just deal with it yourself? There is no reassurance for the female that she won’t suffer for speaking out- there needs to be a system for this. If anything, an informal system for reporting it where no further action is taken..but if the same boys crop up over and over something official may be done? This is open to mass abuse, how ever. :/

    Also this is probably the first time many will have the ability to have sexual relations without the prying eyes of parents- it’s much harder to have sex in a religious household, say. So they’ll probably be more desperate and forceful. Maybe student culture needs to be reassessed- excessive drinking is really not good for any of us. :/

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  4. I’m not certain it’s down to just excessive drinking. Of course that’s an aspect that does exacerbate it but of the three people that I know who have suffered from one of the worst crimes on the planet (only two of those in York), none was as a result of alcohol – the greater issue is that it’s the first time that many people are really at risk (since they are, in first year at least, living on their own with access to nobody else) and whilst feeling that they’re safe, possibly experimenting with their newfound freedom and thinking that they can invite people into their room for pleasantries without expecting more. Likewise there are a number of guys who assume that, due to the wider student culture, an invitation into a house is an invite for sex. And there are plenty of other issues at hand, too. Plus, for many, university could be the very first sexual encounter and I would guess that for the majority of those people it is difficult to know how to respond.

    But, as always, you’ve hit the nail on the head that the problem is in reporting it and, unless the incident is on CCTV or is a recent rape, there is literally no way to prove it. And even in those cases it will often fail to lead to conviction. And then there are all the other problems, too, and the many issues with the “consent” definition and also the accessibility to drugs at university, presumably including rohypnol etc (though I haven’t been offered any form of drug during my time at uni so I assume it’s relatively rare) that could contribute. It’s an important issue, but how can the issue be improved upon?

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  5. Rape is a mental issue of the rapist, it’s a need for control. Whilst rape is probably prevalent within the student body- I highly doubt that it can account entirely for such high statistics. Sexual assault ranges from rape, to an unwanted slap on the bum: it’s not purely rape incidents being recorded.

    And for the other incidents, I do believe alcohol is the cause. It encourages normally lovely boys to turn deviant. At york university in the day I attract no unwanted attention, quite frankly I attract absolutely no attention! I’m not stared, my boobs are safe from comments, my bum is safe from pinches, and I have no boys grabbing my wrists desperately trying to convince me to come visit their college… (Cos I’d love to go see derwent, looks lush…)

    BUT, at night it’s completely different? It seems that once young students are drunk they turn into animals, and desperate ones at that. They don’t realise boundaries, they cannot read people, and they simply just have the drunken ‘idc’ attitude. This contributes to sexual assault a lot of the time, imo.

    “(though I haven’t been offered any form of drug during my time at uni so I assume it’s relatively rare)”

    babe drug dealers don’t go around offering freebies so it’s hardly surprising is it… You either need friends with connections or to buy yur own stuff. Think about it, tens of thousands of young people with the largest disposable income of their lives…of course there are drugs on campus.

    (BTW this is written from the perspective of a girl so maybe I’m more embittered by previous unwanted attention from drunken twats than you may be, so I’m very biased..)

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  6. I was hoping it was written by a girl or the word “babe” was going to incite nightmares..

    And I’m certain that many girls are bitter and I’m sure that there are some who aren’t. I have been groped in bars a few times (interestingly, only once in York and not at all in any of the nightclubs. Even Sunday Tru…) but it’s definitely not the norm. Obviously I was saying that drugs are available – and I wasn’t saying that rape is the only statistic that contributes – but there are so many women (and men) affected and each one can be affected so badly that it’s still important to note the fact.

    Obviously you’re much more knowledgeable than me about it… Is there anything that YUSU or the Uni could do successfully?

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  7. I’m hardly knowledgeable to be fair, I’ve only ever read two feminists books in my entire life! I’m sure some of the women at womcom or in the womens studies department could provide a lot more information & a lot more articulate information if you were interested?

    ..But I have experienced sexual assault 4 times, twice at uni (I’m only a first year, in a long term relationship too) where I considered it disgusting (nudity/forcefulness) and then another time in a club where someone (non-student) was disgusting and ended up getting chucked out. And because of that I think my perception is that it is VERY related to alcohol, and the student mentality of…go out, get pissed, get laid etcetc. Also I’ve noticed a lot more sexism at uni than anywhere else I’ve ever been before..which is potentially related as if men have such low opinion of women in general, how will they treat them in a respectful way sexually?

    If boys didn’t put so much peer pressure on each other or there wasn’t such a massive ‘lad mentality’ where females are merely slabs of meat for sexual consumption rather than humans with emotions who deserve respect, then these stats would be DRAMATICALLY decreased? I think the attitude of teenage boys needs to be readdressed because it is dangerous. :/

    Tbh I think that boys need greater education on the issue. A lot of people don’t understand what sexual assault means as a term, they assume that sexual assault is simply rape and that there are no added dimensions to it: it’s a BROAD subject. I think that awareness of sexual assault does need to be risen, it would be nice for information to be provided in a booklet/email/something.

    Also, girls need educating and empowering as well. Most girls, even rape victims, wouldn’t report the crime because they blame themselves- i.e: in tru drunk in a short skirt therefore that warrants some one demanding a bj or talking to them like dirt. Additionally, a girl could consent to heavy petting but then not want sex..but she may feel that she ‘led the guy on’ and that she essentially gave consent so it was to be expected. It’s really blurry territory, and after such an event usually the girl’s self confidence is completely shattered anyway so they WILL just blame it on themselves and not get the proper help they need, as these events are seriously damaging. There seems to be more emphasis on justice and incriminating the boy than there is helping the girl, which may be why people are so reluctant to speak out after an incident, in fear of the outcome when all they want is some one to talk to…and advice is seriously needed for young impressionable women who have undergone traumatic events!

    Sorry this is so long and unarticulated.

    And I’m honestly not talking about the majority of boys, I’m aware that it is a tiny, tiny minority! It’s just easier to add the little disclaimer at the end than constantly adding it to the end of each time I said ‘boys/men/teenage boys’ !! Most boys are lovely and would probably hate to be associated with any one who is such a vile and offensive creature.

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