We asked 4,000 students about sexual assault on campus. These are the shocking results

These statistics prove just how widespread the problem is at universities

A conversation has been sparked around sexual assault at university. Everyone’s Invited released accounts from nearly every university in the country, with testimonies showing just how universal the problem is on campus, while universities have been told to review how they handle student claims from students. But what is the reality for students?

The Tab asked 4,000 students about their experiences of sexual assault on campus for our 2021 Sexual Assault Survey.

Through the responses, we’ve been able to see a picture of the scale of sexual assault on campus – and of how students feel about their unis’ handling – that mostly goes unseen.

We found:

– Sexual assault is widespread on campus. 59 per cent of female students who responded said they’d been sexually assaulted at uni

– The true extent of the problem is going unreported. Just seven per cent of students reported their sexual assault to their uni

– Students aren’t happy with how universities are dealing with sexual assault reports. Two thirds said they were unhappy with how their uni handled their case

– There is a lack of transparency over how, or whether, universities punish students. Over half of students who reported were told nothing about the outcome of their complaint

The results come as campaigners warn that complaints to universities are often a waste of time, and as a study finds that most students believe consent tests should be compulsory before starting university.

Dr Ann Olivarius, a lawyer who has helped victims of the Warwick group chat successfully sue their university, said the results showed universities were failing students.

“I’m not aware of any universities that have put in place good, fair and functioning processes,” Olivarius told The Tab.

“When we sue universities, there is often an intellectual hubris. They don’t think they should be held accountable.”

She added: “They’re guilty, they’re embarrassed, and they’re not doing their jobs”.

Over half of students have been sexually assaulted at uni

The overall statistics are shocking: 51 per cent of students said they’d been sexually assaulted at uni.

Within that, there are stark differences between universities. 70 per cent of respondents from Oxford Brookes who filled out the survey said they’d been sexually assaulted during their time at uni. Oxford Brookes told The Tab it was “extremely concerned” to hear students had experienced sexual assault, and said it had no place at the university.

Students told us the incident was most likely to have happened in a pub or club. But for those who reported the incident, it was most likely to have happened in halls.

Proportion of respondents from each uni who said they’d been sexually assaulted at uni:

We’ve only included universities with more than 55 responses in this table. It is not the number, but the proportion, of respondents from each university who said they had been sexually assaulted.

The list does not match a list of the universities with the most official reports. In other words, universities who rely on reporting statistics to understand the scale of the problem on their campuses are likely seeing only the tip of the iceberg.

The true extent of the problem is going unreported

We asked students if they reported their assault to the police, the university, or neither.

Just seven per cent said they reported to their university.

In fact, the overwhelming number said they didn’t know where or how to even report an assault. And when they did report, students weren’t happy with how the process went.

Over half of the students who reported said they were unhappy with their university’s handling of the report – with 47 per cent saying they were very unsatisfied. Just one in 10 said they were very satisfied.

Most students get told nothing at all about the outcome of their cases

The results also show a lack of transparency from universities. Often, students who take the step of reporting an incident are left in the dark about whether the perpetrator has been punished, or even if the complaint has been successful.

59 per cent were told nothing about the outcome of their report. Just nine per cent were told both the outcome and the punishment.

Olivarius said secrecy is the default for universities. “Universities claim all sorts of privacy protections, true or not. They use whatever protective devices they can, and legal hooks, to not have to disclose anything,” she told The Tab.

This secrecy is putting students off reporting, said Gemma McCall, the founder of harassment reporting platform Culture Shift.

“The complaints process is so opaque and not as transparent as it should be, which prevents people from reporting. It should be as easy as possible,” McCall told the Guardian.

The Tab’s Do Better campaign is putting a focus on the rising student sexual assault problem. Universities need to do more to support students and the culture around sexual assault needs to change.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Everyone’s Invited founder: ‘Students need to challenge rape culture in real time’

• All universities have been told to urgently review their sexual assault policies

• Investigation: Why do just one in 14 students report sexual assault cases to their uni?

Featured image: @kai.yf