Sexual Harassment and Assault Survey Findings
Content Warning: The following article contains information and words relating to sexual assault and harassment, some may find this triggering.
We recently distributed a survey amongst students in order to collect data from those affected by sexual harassment and assault at U.K. Universities. Here are our findings.
[Disclaimer: It is important to note that we did not define sexual harassment nor assault as we did not want to negate anyone’s experiences with a definition. All participants had a choice of responding to questions with ‘Yes’, ‘No’, or ‘No Comment’. Although we collected several responses directly through our anonymous survey, a large proportion of individuals reached out to writers of The Simple Press directly to share their experiences; those responses were then added to the data set below.
The first question we asked was “Did the incident happen on campus?”
- Although we gave respondents the chance to utilise “No Comment” 0% of respondents did so.
Alarmingly, the majority of respondents told us their experiences with sexual harassment/assault happened on campus.
We then asked “Was the incident reported?” and over half of the respondents said yes.
This could be an early indicator of the positive impact the Me Too movement has had, as it has prompted open discussion about sexual assault and harassment across a variety of fields.
However, we kept this question deliberately broad as we do not want to limit institution, body or person that individuals feel comfortable to confide in. Thus, in this case, reporting could mean the police, but it could also be their university or a charity.
We then asked those who responded ‘Yes’ to reporting the incident if their university was the body they reported their experience to. Whilst 20% of respondents directly answered No, 80% of respondents decided to answer with ‘No Comment’.
Whether or not a case of sexual assault or harassment is reported to the police, most universities have some sort of support mechanism in place to help victims.
Yet when asked “Did the university respond to you report in a satisfactory manner?” not a single responded replied with Yes.
Our final mandatory survey question was “Do you think your university provides enough support and information in regard to sexual harassment and assaults?”. We had an optional section for participants to disclose what university they attend/attended and extra comments.
Only 20% of respondents believed their universities provided adequate support in regard to sexual harassment and assault.
As only one participant was from a university outside of London, we have decided to examine the sexual assault and harassment support available online at London Russell Group Universities.
Each university will be given a score out of five and marked against the following criteria.
Accessibility - How easy is it for, and how many students know, how to access support and find information online.
Availability - The extent to which the support resources and mechanisms are available; are they available 24/7?
Quality - The amount of support and information provided. Is the support and information available limited to just the university’s internal mechanisms, if so do these mechanisms offer support for male and LGBTQ victims. Also, do the universities have links to external charities and organisations?
Language - How is support communicated to victims? Is it genuine and empathetic? When victims are searching for help a variety of emotions run through their head, from fear to guilt, sympathetic language choice may help them to open up.
Specificity - are the support programmes in place tailored to offer support to victims of sexual harassment and assault? Over 40% of students were dissatisfied with the responses from their universities; so, we wanted to specifically know what universities can do to provide better support for victims.
[Each university’s ranking was calculated by totaling their scores in each section, from each participant and calculating their individual average.]
Imperial College London: 2.8 out of 5
Imperial College London provide good advice for friends/partners of those who have been sexually assaulted, even going as far to highlight the importance of everybody’s emotional limits and thus urging them to seek counselling if they need it. In fact, the third sentence on their support page is ‘Support is available whether or not you choose to make an immediate report and any decisions you make will be respected.’ This is a good indicator of the university’s availability, they also provide over 9 contact details for external support charities and services.
However, most of the support offered on a 24/7 basis are security services and on duty wardens.
In addition, the support page is very ‘police’ heavy with nearly every section referring to the police or some form of emergency service, which although is good for those at immediate risk, it implies one must make a report to the police and this could alienate victims from reaching out for the support they need.
Even in the ‘Not Making a Report to the Police’ section ‘helpful information and guidance about choosing to make a report to the police’ is hyperlinked.
King's College London: 3.1 out of 5
KCL have a good initiative called ‘It Stops Here’ which involves voluntary training and classes for both staff and students to support ‘their learning around all forms of harassment, consent and consent and being an active bystander.’ The aims of the initiative are: Respect, Support and Report. They also provide a range of contact details for 13 different organisations and services.
However, the initiative is not compulsory, which means that not every student and staff member will receive fundamental lessons about consent and information about the support services available. Additionally, the internal services offered by King’s are vague at best. Most of the information references external support mechanisms and is lacking in empathetic language by advising students to contact their on call wardens or security officers.
KCL have made a great start to helping students and staff but the initiative can certainly be improved.
London School of Economics: 4 out of 5
LSE offers a wide variety of resources, with information and contact details for over 25 different external organisations and services; including charities specific to male and transgender victims. They also have voluntary workshops for both staff and students on consent.
One of the things we found most positive about LSE’s approach to sexual violence was their ability to provide a variety of options to victims. Under the heading ‘I need some urgent assistance - who should I call?’ LSE lists the details for The Metropolitan Police (including the Sapphire Unit), Rape Crisis and LSE Security. They provide this information without indicating or implying one organisation is more important than the other. Any help a victim chooses to seek is thus a valid avenue.
They also answer anticipatory questions such as ‘How will my information be used?’ if a report was made via LSE.
And They also have safe contacts, who have received enhanced sexual violence training and can offer confidential support to students in a variety of ways from advocacy to planning safe routes home. Their training is updated every three years and their contact details are readily available on LSE’s website.
Whilst the services provided by LSE appear to be commendable, the information was harder to access/find when compared to other universities. In addition, there was a noticeably formal tone throughout their support page.
Queen Mary University of London: 3 out of 5
QMUL’s website is very accessible and easy to navigate. The language and subsequent tone used on their support page is both personal and empathetic, including statementslike ‘You don’t have to talk about what has happened, but if you would like support at Queen Mary, you have many options.’ They also provide links to 6 different external services, including specialist minority support, for example the ‘London Black Women’s Project.’
However, the internal support provided appears to be minimal, predominately offering standard advice and counselling mechanisms. With 60% of respondents saying they do not think their university provides enough support, more mechanisms should be put in place to help victims.
University College London 4.5/5
UCL’s website was the most accessible and clear of all the universities examined. With a great range of information all on one page - utilising supportive and empathetic language - UCL are the only London Russell Group University to explicitly state ‘it was not your fault you are not alone; you deserve to feel supported and believed.’ In addition, they explicitly illustrate ‘there isn’t any particular action that you have to take, you have a choice in how to proceed’ letting the victim take control and make the decision they feel is best.
In addition, they have an internal Student Support and Wellbeing team who are trained to deal with disclosures of sexual harassment and/or sexual violence. The layout of this information on their website also answers preemptive questions to help settle victims’ anxiety such as ‘you do not need to disclose details of the incident when requesting an appointment.’ Furthermore, UCL Student Support services can arrange specialist support for you with external providers e.g. Rape Crisis or Survivors UK as well as providing supplementary information on other external organisations.