‘Women are being assaulted and nothing is being done’: Students feel unsafe on campus

Why the university needs to do more to enhance campus safety

TW: sexual assault, harassment

From an anonymous Google Form we posted on our Instagram regarding safety on campus, we found that many students don’t walk alone around campus with the threat of sexual assault and the fear that the university won’t take sexual assault allegations seriously.

Last month, someone spoke to The Tab Lancaster about the fact they and their flatmates feel unsafe when walking around campus. The anonymous student said: “My auntie expects me to text every night when I get back to my flat,” explaining that no matter if they were breaking lockdown in some ways, it was more important that their family knew they were home and not in danger.

As a result of this we wanted to know how safe students feel on campus and what they wish the university will do to help students feel safer.

‘Women are being assaulted and nothing is being done about it’

From our Google Form, students expressed their reasonings as to why they didn’t feel 100 per cent safe on campus. One of the main concerns was that some students felt unsafe due to the threat of sexual assault and how the university deals with such matters.

Abbey said: “Women are being assaulted and nothing is being done about it.” Other students expressed the same notion. Carla said: “University take egging buildings more seriously than multiple sexual assault allegations.”

Molly added that she didn’t feel that the university would take sexual assault allegations seriously. She said: “Been sexually assaulted twice on campus and fully-aware management will do nothing about it.” Georgie also shares the same opinion that university staff don’t acknowledge the severity of students not feeling safe when asking for help. Georgie said: “I have dealt with the porters before on campus, they were completely unprofessional and made jokes about the really serious situation. I do not feel safe around them at all.”

Sam said: “I was raped on campus and I know for a fact there are numerous rapists who live on campus too.” Diane said: “I’ve had friends be raped on campus and threatened. I myself have been threatened by a student off campus so the thought of him going to our uni scares me whenever I’m on campus.”

‘I didn’t like how little lighting there was’

Another issue that was raised constitutes a general feeling of unsafeness created by a lack of lighting across campus. Several responses mentioned that the outer perimeter of campus is very poorly lit. Eleanor said: “At night the lighting around the outskirts is awful”.

Others cited specific areas like Pendle and Grizedale to be very dark in comparison to central campus. But many students agreed that the lighting on campus is very poor. Frankie said: “I don’t leave the flat at night unless I have to.” Rebecca also said: “It might be because I’m a fresher and I’m still new to the campus, but I remember the first time I had to walk to collect a parcel in the evening alone and it was very dark, I didn’t like how little lighting there was and just felt uncomfortable and remember walking very fast so I could get back to my flat.”

Issy said: “When walking back especially when it’s dark and people start to talk to you – it’s feels like second nature to assume that they’re going to harm you or have that intention – I know University campus’s are safer than cities but it’s still that built in fear and defence mode.”

Students carry rape alarms, pepper spray and pocket knives to stay safe

From the respondents of our survey, 11 per cent reported that they do carry something around with them on campus to protect themselves. These included pepper spray, self-defence bodywear, rape whistles and alarms, a bright flashlight and nearly half said they keep their keys between their fingers to use defensively if needed.

Alice said she wears a “necklace that’s sharp” to defend herself if needed and Chloe said that she carries a “small pocket swiss knife”.

‘Educate abusers rather than berate victims’

Regarding what students wish the university will do more of to allow students to feel safer on campus, many responses requested that the university educate all students on campus safety and sexual assault. Frankie said the university should be “facilitating a conversation about safety on campus, maybe as part of the introductory talks (alongside fire safety).”

Carla also said that the university should “educate abusers rather than berate victims” in which Diane added: “Help teach people (mainly men) what is wrong and leads to people feeling unsafe”.

Requesting that the university take sexual assault allegations more seriously, Issy said: “To take sexual assault more seriously- nobody even likes the porters or feel safe with them as a girl got told she must have been asking for it by a Porter when she told them she was sexually assaulted.” Alice also said: “Provide more support for victims of harassment or rape on campus.”

Other ideas to make campus safer included adding more lighting such as solar powered lights and emergency call points. Amy said: “Have a 24/7 safe pastoral area available, cos whilst security is there people often don’t want to go there out of fear of punishment (e.g covid breeches etc)”. Marie also said: “More emergency call points like the one in the wooden walkway by Pendle”.

We reached out to the university to comment on their safety policies and how they plan to make campus safer. A university spokesperson said: “Lancaster University has a zero tolerance approach to any form of harassment or sexual misconduct on campus. Our teams are working to further educate and inform students and staff. Students can be reassured that the University will take all formal reports of sexual assault seriously and will act on them appropriately without preconception or bias.

“More information on our policies and options to report any incidents can be found here. There is also the option of reporting anonymously via Unisafe on the iLancaster app.  We will continue to work with the Students’ Union on ways in which we can further promote student safety and wellbeing on campus and ensure that any reported incidents are appropriately responded to.”

All names in this article are factious to protect anonymity. 

Related articles:

This is how Lancs women keep themselves safe, and how you can help

‘Lancaster Survivors’ on the importance of trigger warnings

‘The uni failed me’: Student experiences of sexual assault at Lancaster University