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23rd September 2014

Sexual harassment rife at UK universities

A recent study by NUS shows the shocking extent of sexual harassment around universities

NUS president Toni Pierce has called on university authorities to tackle ‘lad culture’ at universities following a recent NUS survey.

The survey revealed that one in four UK students have experienced unwanted sexual advances at university. One in three women surveyed reported they had experienced harassment in the form of inappropriate groping and touching.

More than a third of women and 16 per cent of men also said they had experienced unwanted sexual comments about their bodies.

More than a third of respondents were also aware of promotional material around university depicting sexualised images of women.

As well as this, 37 per cent said they had seen students put up with unwanted sexual comments.

Lad Culture National Strategy Team Ambassador Laura Bates said, “students are experiencing sexism, sexual harassment and assault within the university environment. It is worth mentioning that one category of such experiences: ‘inappropriate touching and groping’, actually constitutes sexual assault under UK law.”

She said: “Though many students would not label it as such, this normalisation and lack of awareness is a major part of the problem.”

The study also revealed a lack of awareness or provisions in place for students, with 60 per cent of respondents admitting they were unaware of codes of conduct implemented by their universities regarding reporting of incidents.

75 per cent of students said they were familiar with online communities such as “The Lad Bible” and “Uni Lad”, however 63 per cent of women and 43 per cent of men agreed they show an unfair representation of women.

Lad culture is defined by the NUS as a set of widespread attitudes and behaviours that “belittle, dismiss, joke about or even seem to condone rape and sexual assault.”

NUS president Toni Pierce said: “Sadly, all of these elements exist in campus life, we know because we hear it from students. They told us in the Hidden Marks report in 2010, they revealed the depths of lad culture in ‘That’s what she said’ last year, and they’ve spoken again.”

She said: “These stats show that harassment is rife on campus, but we still we keep hearing from universities that there is no fear, no intimidation, no problem—well, this new research says otherwise.”

As a result of the results the NUS is launching a pilot scheme for five to ten UK Students’ Unions to investigate what lad culture is like on their campuses and assess the measures in place to tackle it.

The University of Manchester’s Students’ Union is an accredited zero tolerance union. Staff and students are asked to take the We Get It pledge, to demonstrate the commitment to create a welcoming and inclusive university community.

Women’s Officer Jess Lishak said: “We want to ensure that all staff and students are aware of the campaign and their responsibility as members of our University community to not participate in ‘lad culture’ and to call it out when they see it.”

“The campaign will also be improving the way that students access support by creating an easy and accessible online reporting system on the homepage of the online portal which will be launched as part of a wider We Get It campaign against all forms of bullying and harassment in November.”

Any student who experiences verbal or physical sexual assault on the premises are encouraged to alert any member of staff, who will refer you to a specially trained duty manager immediately for the relevant support.

The university also has several harassment advisers trained to help if students need someone to talk to, whose contact details can be found on the Students’ Union website.

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