Dozens of students from the University of York have been sexually assaulted in nightclubs.
A recent survey run by YUSU brought up five individual cases of ‘underhanding’ in York clubs alone, with a further ten outside of the area. Taken on a university wide level this could equate to over 100 people experiencing sexual assault directly and a further 150 seeing it happen. It is difficult to put an exact number on cases as many people are reluctant to speak out.
The practice of ‘underhanding’ has gained publicity in recent weeks, with students across the country speaking out against the practice, in which the perpetrator stands behind a woman and tries to insert their fingers into her.
One student from the University of York told Nouse how they were ‘underhanded’ on a student night in York. “It shocked me if I’m honest. I’d never had any real trouble in a club before but this took me completely by surprise”. The student, who wished to remain anonymous added, “I felt utterly violated, what makes them think they can do that?”
She continued to say that the attitude of “oh she’s wearing a short skirt she must be up for it” has to be removed. “I want to be able to get dressed up and feel good on a night out…this in no way invites anyone to touch me” the student added.
Touching anyone without their consent is considered sexual assault by the police. ‘Underhanding’ is a form of penetration and thus carries the same maximum sentence as rape.
Many students are unaware of the severity of the crime and thus most cases of ‘underhanding’ and other incidents of sexual assault go unreported. In a recent article by The Guardian it was claimed that sexual assault is so common that many do not think of reporting it.
Students in Sheffield have started an Anti-Sexual harassment group in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue and encourage nightclubs and the general public to be more vigilant of such incidents. A ‘Spotted: Sexism in York’ Facebook page has been established, encouraging followers to report any incidents of sexism or sexual assault in York.
George Offer, YUSU Welfare Officer, spoke to Nouse about the issue: “Underhanding is a completely unacceptable activity: it is sexual assault. Although it does not currently seem to be a big problem in York, we take it very seriously and have ensured that the lead door supervisor at all YUSU nights will deal with all reports of underhanding appropriately.”
Josie Field, YUSU Women’s Officer, commented on the the findings, saying, “Sexual harassment is an issue that touches a great deal of people’s lives in one form or another and University is sadly no exception.”
She went on to add, “It’s important to know what constitutes as sexual harassment and your rights surrounding it. Everyone deserves to have a fun night out without having to worry about being harassed or assaulted.
“By taking trends such as ‘underhanding’ seriously we can hopefully stamp on misogynist cultures beginning to grow in York as and when the symptoms are surfacing.”
Correction from print edition. Assaults can be reported to club door staff, Doorsafe, Police or the YUSU Advice and Support Centre. Support is also available from Open Door and confidential listening service Nightline.