One in 20 Bristol Uni students thinks flirting and how you are dressed is consent

40 per cent of students ask for consent by making a sexual advance and waiting for a reaction

Content Warning: sexual assault and sexual harassment

One in 20 Bristol Uni students believe that consent can be implied through “clothing and attitudes (e.g.) flirting”, an SU report has found.

The survey, which was carried out between 14th February and 3rd March this year, assessed consent culture on campus as well as sexual violence.

The survey reveals an alarming lack of education around consent amongst students. While 98 per cent believe sexual consent should always be obtained, 78 per cent said they used non-verbal signals or body language to communicate consent. There was a complete divide as to whether consent can be given under the influences of alcohol and/or drugs and one in four students admitted they struggle to verbalize their consent because they are “too shy”.

Source: Bristol SU No Means No report

A small group of students, eight per cent, revealed they have in the past not asked for consent or given their consent because they felt it could “backfire and they might end up not having sex”.

Four out of ten students ask for consent by “making a sexual advance and waiting for a reaction”.

Source: Bristol SU No Means No report

The same report found that almost half of Bristol Uni students have been sexually harassed at university and almost one in three have been sexually assaulted.

One student told the survey: “It is not a big deal. A slap on the arse, a pinch of a nipple. It’s normal human interaction. One doesn’t bat an eyelid. No need to overly problematise it and make those who have experienced this feel like victims.

“If someone slapped your arse, you’re not a victim.”

Unsurprisingly, students are calling out for greater education. 73 per cent of responses called on the university to increase consent education.

“More education on how to say no, not doing what you’re not comfortable doing for people who feel pressured into doing things”, one student said.

Another student spoke out against the lack of consent in nightclubs. They said: “Hands often wander onto other peoples’ bodies. That’s not okay and it shouldn’t take physical and verbal ‘no’s to make someone stop touching you”.

Bristol Uni have previously held mandatory consent workshops for first year students during Freshers’ Week but have stopped since 2017.

However, Director of Student Life and Wellbeing at Bristol Uni, Claire Slater, said: “We also work with students to raise awareness of the importance of consent when they first come to Bristol, with the aim of changing behaviours and attitudes. We are committed to continuing to work in partnership with Bristol SU to address this important issue.”

Despite repeated attempts asking the university what raising “awareness of the importance of consent” actually means in practice, they have failed to answer.

It appears all Bristol Uni offer in the way of consent education is one webpage with a link to an external video titled “Consent: It’s simple as Tea” and an external quiz.

A screenshot of the current consent education on the Bristol Uni website

The SU’s report concludes with the recommendation that the university need to develop “comprehensive consent education” for both staff and students. It should be compulsory for all new students and training should particularly focus (but not be limited to) “understanding consent when alcohol and drugs are being used” and “challenging and opposing the normalisation and trivialisation of sexual violence”.

Leah Martindale, the Equality, Liberation and Access Officer at Bristol SU, said: “I’m really determined that we use this research to improve the lives of all Bristol students. The results have given us a better understanding of what needs to happen next and have provided a good evidence base to present to the university.”

How to report Sexual Violence

If you have experience of sexual violence, there are a number of ways you can report this and seek support.

Visit Report and Support to submit either an anonymous report or speak to a Student Service Officer who will help explain options available to you reporting an incident of harassment or assault.

To speak to a Sexual Violence Liaison Officer who can refer you to external support as well as practical support including accommodation options, fill out this Request Wellbeing Support Form

For help and guidance around sexual violence and abuse please contact: Somerset & Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support: Women & Girls 0808 801 0456, Men & Boys 0808 801 0464

External to the university, The Bridge can provide guidance on ways of reporting rape or sexual assault and the Bristol Survivor Pathway can guide you towards appropriate support services in the Bristol area.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Bristol students are boycotting clubs next Wednesday, demanding they do more to prevent spiking

• Almost half of Bristol Uni students have been sexually harassed, report finds

• We spoke to a Bristol student who was sexually harassed during Freshers’ Week