‘The uni failed me’: Student experiences of sexual assault at Lancaster University
‘They care more about plagiarism than they do about sexual assault on their campus’
CW: sexual assault, rape. If you are affected by the content this piece covers please seek support at Women’s Aid. All names used in this piece have been changed.
Sexual assault is an issue on campus. The Lancaster Tab created an anonymous forum for victims to share their stories if they felt they wanted to use them to hold the university to account for the sexual misconduct on campus. All names used in this piece are made up to protect the victims who shared their stories with both confidence and bravery.
In a statement provided by Lancaster University, the uni said: “Sexual assaults are deeply damaging and traumatising for the victims, as well as being a criminal offence.
“Earlier this year, the University reviewed and revised its policies and procedures relating to student sexual misconduct which has led to specialised training being provided to investigating officers. We have robust investigatory and disciplinary processes in place to ensure our duty of care to all parties. Professional support is also available for our students who are victims of sexual crime.”
We also spoke to LUSU, where a spokesperson said: “We take allegations of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct very seriously. When we receive an allegation, it is always investigated fully by the Union. We will work with other appropriate authorities, including the University or the police, if the victim chooses to report it to them.
“We would encourage any victims of sexual assault to report the incident so that it can be investigated. However, it is entirely their right to choose whether to report and we will support them even if they choose not to do so.
“If any students want to contact our confidential Advice Service, they can do so by emailing [email protected]”
“After continuously saying no, I was put in a position where I had to go ahead”
“I was sexually assaulted in my first year of university. Even after continuously saying no I was put in a position where I had to go ahead. Afterwards I felt like it was my fault for being in a situation where that occurred. It affected my studies heavily and to this day I haven’t dealt with it.”
“I tried pulling away but he was stronger and kept saying things like ‘you’re too boring,’ ‘you’re killing the vibe,’ ‘thought you were naughty'”
Sophie described herself as “alone” and “totally dependent” on a boy. The boy had decided that “he wanted to fuck” and despite Sophie saying no and attempting to push him away “he would still put his hand s under my pants, touch my boobs… I tried pulling away but he was stronger and kept saying things like ‘you’re too boring,’ ‘you’re killing the vibe,’ ‘thought you were naughty.’
“I just didn’t know what to do and felt frozen. I finally reacted when he started taking my clothes off of me and I was able to leave. He’s one of those boys with ‘lots of friends and followers,’ I wish I could warn every girl not to get close to him.”
“I’m a guy and this year I have been constantly sexually assaulted on nights out”
“I’m a guy and this year I have been constantly sexually assaulted on nights out. The same girl would repeatedly grab my crotch in the club despite me telling her it made me uncomfortable and me making it clear I wasn’t into her. If anything she laughed it off. I’m sure she wouldn’t see it the same way if I had done the same to her.”
“I feel responsible for what happened for not being ‘clear enough’ or not saying no ‘too angrily'”
Alice reported that she felt “bothered” during seminars for months as a boy did not “understand consent.”
“He would sit beside me and put hands on my legs, my hips… he would try to massage me and would always put his hands on my neck. He made sexual comments constantly and whisper in my ear. I said no quietly (because we were in class) every single time but he wouldn’t stop. The worst part is I feel responsible for what happened for not being ‘clear enough’ or not saying no ‘too angrily.’
“I didn’t quite realise what had happened until I had walked back to my accommodation without underwear.”
Jessica said that she had been raped on Lancaster campus 18 months ago.
“It was after a night out and I have next to no recollection of what happened, all I know is that there is no way that I was in a position to consent or provided consent as I have never had sex.”
Jessica said that when it came to sex, she had “never felt ready” and “hadn’t even slept with someone who was near enough my boyfriend, so I definitely would not have had sex for the first time with a stranger.”
“I know a lot of people who hear about rape at uni assume that the person ‘just regrets it’ but you can’t regret something you did not consent to do.”
The perpetrator was a friend of a friend, and after trying to piece together what had happened, Jessica went to the university for help.
Jessica described her experience as expecting a duty of care and being completely wrong about that expectation. Jessica first went to her college dean whom she described as “actually very helpful” as they reassured her that “if something didn’t seem right” then “something was wrong.”
This was taken to the disciplinary team, where Jessica describes her experience of going “really wrong.”
“I was asked if I ‘was sure I didn’t consent’ and as soon as I was asked that, I knew I was not believed, who in their right mind would ask someone who was a victim of rape this?”
After months of investigation, Jessica was told her complaint had been upheld and that the perpetrator had been found guilty.
However, after a couple of weeks Jessica was still seeing her perpetrator on campus: “[It seemed] like no action had occurred, I took it up with the uni again. I was then told that my complaint had not been upheld and that he had not been found guilty.
“The uni did nothing to help after an initial ‘if you need help go to The Base’ line at the bottom of an email, and didn’t even check up on me.
Jessica felt that the uni was unsupportive of her considering her complaint: “I was later told that the person I had reported had received daily calls to check he was ok whilst I received nothing and was left to cope by myself.
“I don’t think the uni realises how damaging sexual assault can be, and I genuinely mean it when I say that they care more about plagiarism than they do about sexual assault. Their policy of zero tolerance is utter rubbish. The uni failed me in my time of need.”
“Male victims are constantly pushed to the sidelines”
Tom admitted that last term, he was “grabbed, slapped and otherwise sexually harassed by several people on several occasions” and told that there was nothing the club could do. “A girl at the bar squeezed my leg and said ‘buy me a drink and I’ll do more than that,’ which shows she not only feels entitled to have sex with me but also my money.”
“Sexual harassment is not a feminist issue ’cause it happens to so many men and male victims are constantly pushed to the sidelines. Just need to all agree to not be a dickhead.”
“The only sexual harassment awareness the uni implemented was where they played that ‘cup of tea’ analogy video”
Jenny said that she had three experiences during her time at Lancaster, with two being in her first year.
Whilst in the queue for a club, Jenny starting chatting to a guy. After this, Jenny states that the boy followed her for half of the night: “He would even follow me towards toilets, and into smoking area, and would just stand there. He eventually forced himself on me, and I literally tried to pull away and he’d just tighten his grip, he was also touching me inappropriately and my friends gathered I wasn’t comfortable so they took me into the toilets and we hid for about 20 minutes.
Jenny’s perpetrator knew her freshers’ rep, and told them that she was “a massive slag.” A year later, whilst queuing to enter a club, the same boy tried to reintroduce himself to Jenny.
Jenny reported another event that took place in her first year, after a night out. “Someone kept ringing me, it was someone I’d added on Snapchat – I’d gotten with them, but I wasn’t interested beyond that, and I don’t think he was either, I think he just wanted to sleep with someone.
“He wouldn’t stop ringing me so I answered to tell him to stop. And he told me he had specifically gotten a taxi back to campus, and had specifically come to my house, and was waiting outside for me to let him up. I went down to go tell him to go away but he came inside and basically tried to corner me. I didn’t know how to get rid of him so I thought I’d let him sit in my flat then get rid of him. I told him that I would not be ‘doing anything’ with him.
“He followed me into my room and kept saying ‘we don’t have to do anything, but’ and then would effectively force himself on me, I asked him to stop once again but in the end I was pressured into doing stuff with him. I didn’t process it until I spoke to two people I trusted about it. I felt bad because I had let him in, and I had ‘given in’ in the end, so I felt like it wasn’t valid.
“The only sexual harassment awareness the uni implemented was an optional talk where they played that ‘cup of tea’ analogy video – which is so poor.”
“He kept on insisting and I kept on saying no.”
Charlie said that whilst in her first year she was seeing a boy – their relationship was “committed” but they “never really talked about it.”
Charlie realised she wanted to call things off with him: “He came to campus and we went to my room to talk. I had a few drinks before that so I was a bit drunk and it was obvious. We started talking and I told him how I didn’t wanna be with him anymore.
“Because of the alcohol and the tension I broke into tears and started apologising, even though I had nothing to apologise for. When I was crying he asked me to have sex and I said no, he kept on insisting and I kept on saying no. He took it as a joke and started kissing me and touching me. I was too drunk to resist. I was crying under him and he did not care.
“When he left he said ‘that was nice, we should do it again.’ I have never raised my voice about this until today. I started self harming and having suicidal thoughts after that. I have been abusing drugs ever since, because my head is still in that bedroom and I need to get out somehow. I thought that it was not rape because we dated before but now I know it was. No means no, it does not mean ‘convince me.'”
“It happens to men too, and you don’t need to be ashamed.”
David recalled a time where he was at home in his first year: “I was raped by someone I considered to be one of my best friends. She kept refilling my drinks until I was unable to stand without assistance, got me in a taxi, and took me back to her house where she used me for non-consensual sex. I’m here to say that it happens to men too, and you don’t need to be ashamed if it happens to you.”
“My rep took advantage of me when I was most vulnerable”
Paula reported a time where she was taken advantage of by her Freshers’ rep. “While we were in bed, he pushed my head down and made me give him a blowjob, I did express discomfort but that didn’t stop him. It hit me how bad it was 5 months later when talking to my counsellor about it and seeing them being really concerned and asking if I wanted to report him to the police.”
“On every night out I go on, I will have my ass grabbed”
Beth admitted that on most nights out, she experiences sexual assault. “I will have my ass grabbed, or smacked by lads who think because they’ve had a drink they suddenly have the right to behave in a despicable way.
Beth felt that the blame can often be shifted onto “locals” but “it is just as much of an issue in the student community.”
“I passed out outside Sugar and remember a man kindly offering to take me home”
Alexis recalled a time she passed out outside of a club. A man offered to take her home to make sure she “got home safe”. The next thing she remembered was the next morning, where he told her they had sex: “It left me feeling violated, and uncomfortable.”
“I was way too drunk to be able to give valid consent”
After a night out, Kate recalled a time where a boy invited himself back to her house: “I was way too drunk to be able to give valid consent. I didn’t know what was going on until it was too late.”
“Male students frequently go out of their way to grope me”
Alex, a gay man, admitted he rarely goes to certain clubs in Lancaster “because male students frequently go out of their way to grope me in those places.”
On one occasion, Alex was asked if he was “a guy or a girl” before the other person reached into his underwear “squeezing my junk.”
On another occasion, as Alex was at a cash point a student attempted “to penetrate me with his finger while getting money for a taxi. Both were students, and I worry about people less used to this sort of treatment for whom it could be traumatic. Ultimately, I was unharmed, but others might not be so lucky.”