Sexual harassment on campus

5 Mins read

In the wake of the sexual assault claims against Harvey Weinstein, women, from famous movie stars such as Angelina Jolie to citizens on Facebook, have found the courage within themselves to out the monsters that have sexually harassed them;

The hashtag #MeToo has been used worldwide to encourage women to share their stories of harassment. In response to this, men are tweeting #HowIWillChange, which started with actor Mark Ruffalo who has expressed about men being part of the solution in ending rape culture. Responses to the hashtag include men promising to call out harassment and to speak up when they hear sexist statements.

In a recent survey put together by Artefact, 100 people answered a series of questions on sexual harassment. From the findings, 87 per cent of people who took the survey were female. 74 percent admitted that they have been sexually harassed at one point in their life, however, only 40 per cent suffered this at work.

Out of the 100 respondents, 73 per cent were between the age of 18 and 24. The results show what type of sexual harassment 90 of them experienced and they had the option to pick more than one.

Sexual harassment graph from Survey Monkey

Nearly half said they never told anyone about the harassment with only five people skipping the question. The last question was whether they were happy with the response they got when they told someone, 22.5 per cent said they were very unhappy with the response whilst only eleven percent were very happy.

With more and more powerful figures being outed every week, Artefact wanted to see what the University of Arts London (UAL) has planned for helping people who have been affected in the same way.

Katayoun Jalilipour, a Welfare Officer at the Student Union in High Holborn says they have recently started up consent campaigns that they want to make mandatory for students across all campuses.

Harassment has always been a problem, but when did it become a much bigger priority?

Scarlett Shaney was the welfare officer for two years prior and she started working on bringing up the issues of harassment to the university. It was kind of not spoken about much before she started her role and so she talked about it more and then it became a big campaign and the university became way more aware of it, they started working towards making the services better.

What has the university done since you’ve been welfare officer in regards to tackling sexual harassment?

The university has now launched a new web page for reporting harassment, before this the only thing that UAL offered was one page that said if you’ve experienced harassment go to the police and that was it, so the student union was like ‘this is not OK’. We brought up a conversation and now its a full page with useful information on what sexual harassment means, sexual violence, gender-based violence and the whole reporting system has been updated so now there’s an anonymous reporting.

What made you start up the consent campaigns?

I-Heart-Consent was a campaign that was nationwide by NUS that launched [in 2014] by Susuana Amoah. She launched this campaign and it was about bringing up a conversation about consent and consent workshops in education in universities. We work closely with them and three years ago when the campaign was launched we started using it for our Arts SU societies and sports training. It’s basically a workshop where you talk about consent, what it means, legal definitions, talk about it on a more human level. People engage with each other, it also talks about liberation and LGBTQ+ issues. When I was elected one of my campaign points was about making these workshops more accessible because there have only been used to train societies and sports which is great but I think sex education is so minimal and almost useless. Universities are the last stage you can teach people about consent and people forget that in UAL we have 16-to-17-year-old students sometimes and its important for them to feel safe.

Is it getting easier for people to speak up as you’ve gone on with these campaigns?

I think in the university, yes, I’ve definitely seen a massive shift in the past five years of people’s engagement in the conversation. People want to talk about it and are being more open about it. So there’s been an improvement but I mean that’s not to say that this is something that’s happening in a wider sector, even other universities, they have very different experiences with it. I think we have some benefits with the advantages of being the kind of university we are, the dynamic of our students makes it a better ground for more improvement. However, on a wider scale, I don’t know, it’s difficult, people are definitely talking about it way more than in the 90s but it doesn’t mean the work is done.

What’s the next step for you?

I really wanted to make these workshops mandatory for the whole of UAL and we’ve been trailing the sessions. We’ve done some courses at LCF were it was on their timetable and hopefully for next year we’ll make them part of the induction period for foundation students.

UAL has proved that they’re ready to end sexual harassment in whatever way they can. Artefact decided to look into different universities to see how they prevented harassment and sexual violence.

University of Liverpool campus

University of Liverpool [Wikimedia Commons]

In one case, a male student from the University of Liverpool manipulated and tricked fellow girls from his campus into modelling for a music album with hidden motives of sexual harassment and inappropriate fetish images.

One student who had no idea about his real reasons agreed to model for him in his house. After half an hour of shooting, he went the toilet and was gone for a while. Suspicious of why he was taking so long, the girl texted him to see if he was okay, he soon replied saying he was masturbating to her images.

After thinking long and hard whether she should tell someone, more girls came forward to speak to her about the same issue with the same boy. She decided she had to tell the university and they got the police to investigate. The university then asked him to leave until further notice.

Two months later he returned with a curfew of 8:00pm to 8:00am on campus, but the student told us it “made me fuming because that wouldn’t stop him or teach him a lesson”

“They let me go through the humiliation of sharing my story over and over, without having any practical or positive outcome to help the safety of other girls at university. They offered no further support on how we’d been affected by this, and we all had constant concerns we’d see his face in university again.”

In Sheffield, there were a number of attempts at rape in the park near one of the libraries. It happened late at night when people were walking home from being out but also as early as 11:00am.

The student union provided free rape alarms for students and there was a women’s bus that picked people up from outside the Student Union building and took them home for £1.

“They were really helpful and when it happened they blocked off the park numerous of times. They have a special number you ring if it happens on campus and there’s also a lot on the university website including all the definitions, rape-myths, supporting friends and what to do next,” a student at Sheffield told Artefact.

A survey produced by The Guardian in March 2017 revealed figures from universities that have reported staff-on-student harassment. Goldsmiths and Nottingham take the lead with more than ten allegations from 2011-12 to date. All allegations were investigated even though both universities had a relationship policy. However, no staff left after the investigations.

Although it may be clear that some universities are willing to step up and help students now more than ever, it is still a worry that sexual harassment is at epidemic levels.

Even though there are no national guidelines on how universities should respond to these allegations, it is crucial that they start now.



Featured Image by GDJ via Pixabay CC

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