A student safety study by the University of Manchester Students’ Union has revealed that almost all students have been victims of crime while studying in Manchester.
The study, which gathered 1,031 responses from University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University students, found that 9 out of 10 students are victims of crime while studying in Manchester.
The study included unreported crimes, otherwise known as ‘the dark figure of crime’, revealing that many students are unlikely to report their victimisation to the police. In particular, almost all sexual crimes were left unreported.
Sexual crimes were the most common crimes to be committed against students, with 1 in 2 students victimised sexually, and three-quarters of women.
Of these sexual crimes against students, not including rape, a staggering 90 – 99 per cent of them went unreported, and 60 per cent of rapes were unreported. The most common sexual crime was street harassment (41.5 per cent), however only 0.8 per cent of these were reported.
The issue of leaving crimes unreported was particularly prominent among certain subgroups, including 98 per cent of LGBTQ students who did not report their sexual assault, 99 per cent of women who experienced street harassment, and 100 per cent of men who experienced rape.
The study also revealed that the top three victimised students in Manchester were non-binary students (96.4 per cent), LGBQ students (93.2 per cent) and female students (89 per cent), and it is in the popular student areas of Rusholme and Fallowfield that students feel most unsafe.
When asked what made them feel unsafe students largely responded that it was from reading stories about crime in the media, with lack of lighting and walking alone following close behind.
The impact of these crimes on wellbeing was also apparent, with 40 per cent admitting feeling unsafe in Manchester had a detrimental impact on their mental health, social life, and studies.
Despite sexual victimisation being the most common crime, awareness of many of the services in place which act as preventative measures against these crimes were found to be the lowest overall, with only 20.7 per cent aware of the free attack alarms, and only just under half of students aware of women’s self-defence classes and the safe taxi scheme.
Students were more aware of the counselling and advice services offered by the universities and Students’ Union than they were of the preventative initiatives on offer. The report admits that the preventative measures need to be relaunched to ensure more awareness including Student Safe Zones, which the report admits currently has out of date information online.
The recommendations of the study included ensuring that the creation of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority includes crucially a collaborative student safety strategy.
Higher Education institutions are also being urged, as sexual crime was found to be so prevalent, to design an “educational campaign addressing issues of consent, healthy and abusive relationships”. The report suggests that sex and relationship education should be part of all students’ induction into university.
The report also suggested that current mitigating circumstances provisions need to be reviewed, highlighting current grounds for “mitigation for both University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University students make reference to the circumstances being ‘unforeseeable’ and ‘unpreventable’”, which could be discouraging students from applying.
Jenni Smyth, Women’s Officer of the University of Manchester Students’ Union responded to these findings in a statement to The Mancunion in which she said: “The impact of crime can have devastating consequences for individuals and nobody should ever have to experience this; we want all Manchester students to have the best possible experience whilst here in our City.”
The organisers of the recent LightUp Fallowfield event, speaking to The Mancunion about these findings, said that they did “not find the results surprising”, adding that they “believe that the solution needs to be preventative rather than reactive; more lighting, more officers, specials, and Police Community Support Officers on the ground, and more awareness of campaigns such as GMP’s Student Safe Zones, which can help if you feel under threat.”
To raise awareness and to combat the continued safety issues that students face at night, on the 23rd of February students from Manchester will be taking to the streets for the annual Reclaim the Night march, which saw 3,500 students attend last year.
A University of Manchester spokesman said in response to the study’s release: “The University takes student safety extremely seriously. With our own security staff and by working the police we take an active role in crime reduction and prevention.
“Through initiatives such as the We Get It campaign and the free student shuttle bus, we have a number of measures in place to ensure students can feel safe and report problems. While we believe there are issues with the way in which this report’s data has been collected and presented, we will work with the Students’ Union on its findings, alongside other universities and authorities in the city, to develop an action plan.”
The Mancunion contacted Greater Manchester Police for a statement, however they were unable to provide a comment by our print deadline.
We also contacted the MMU press office and MMU Students’ Union for a comment.