The shocking reality of sexual assault and harassment in Nottingham

With countless students enjoying the nightlife of the city, we have to ensure their safety


As a city dominated by two major universities, Nottingham’s nightlife is always a hub of activity. Whether it be in the clubs or the bars, students can be found spilling out of each, completely carefree and embracing that university lifestyle.  However, not every night out can end up as expected. The number of rapes reported in Nottingham has increased by 150% since 2012.

Sexual harassment is a prominent issue in Nottingham. It was reported in 2018 that a student from The University of Nottingham was given a 15-month suspended jail term after being convicted of assault against another student.

A high percentage of students each year are affected by sexual violence of some kind and yet many still believe it won’t happen to them. After speaking to students at both UoN and Trent, some came forward to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment that have taken place in the city. They hoped by sharing their stories, others wouldn’t be targeted next time.

‘I tried to take his hands off of me, but he just slid them down lower on my body’

One woman came forward to tell us about her assault that took place in January 2019, when she was in her second year at Nottingham Trent University.

“I was walking through the crowd [in a notts nightclub], on my way to get a drink before joining my friends again.  It was very busy as I walked through and I felt these hands pressed against me from behind, almost grabbing me, but I chose to ignore it. I thought it was just an accident due to how packed it was.

However, when I reached the bar, a man wrapped his arm around my waist. I turned around to discover it was a man I had never seen before, smiling at me. I tried to take his hands off of me, but he just slid them down lower on my body. I asked him what he was doing, and he told me that he had seen me in the crowd and couldn’t help himself. I felt sick and backed away quickly. I went and found my friends and told them we had to leave. It’s made me quite anxious in clubs in case it happens again, it felt awful being touched like that.”

Many students reported similar experiences to these, where they have been touched inappropriately by people they didn’t know. However, this is not just an issue that affects women, as a high number of cases in Nottingham have been reported by men.

One male student came forward to share his story from his first year of university, that has affected him ever since.

‘I felt really humiliated and didn’t tell anyone about it’

“I was on the dance floor of the club, having a nice time with my friends. I was minding my own businesses when a boy, a friend of a friend, came over and put his arm around my neck and started rubbing my body. It made me feel really uncomfortable. I didn’t know this man personally and yet he was touching me very inappropriately, so I left straight afterwards. I felt really humiliated and didn’t tell anyone about it. It’s something that has stuck with me and affected me on nights out ever since. I feel like it something that definitely goes under the radar as so many students are unaware of the real danger, especially young men.”

‘I was spiked two months into my first year of university’

Choosing to stay anonymous, a young woman told us about the evening of November 2016, when she was spiked.

“I had been too drunk to get into the club, so I got a taxi home to my student accommodation. However, on the way home, I got out of the taxi and went to the local chip shop. Whilst in the queue, I got chatting to a group of guys who offered me a bottle of water. Stupidly, I drank it.

“I got my food and went outside to walk home. A little while later I started to feel disorientated and scared. I couldn’t see and I thought I was going to collapse. I then blacked out and the next thing I remembered was waking up in bed and feeling like death. It turned out I had been walking around the city for hours and someone had found me. I was found collapsed outside a supermarket and my friend had to carry me home. The next day I went to the hospital and they found Rohypnol in my system.”  

Unfortunately, these cases are not rare. Which is why it is so important to flag the seriousness of this issue to the community, especially students.

The shocking reality is- Nottingham has a very high amount of cases, with a drastic increase each year from 2012. With there averaging around 65,000 students in Nottingham as of 2019, it’s more vital than ever that awareness is raised and shared with students.

Nottinghamshire police published a document containing the figures of 2018, detailing the number of sexual assaults and harassments cases within the year and the outcomes of these. The document declared that 95,807 people over the age of 16 had been sexually assaulted in some manner in 2018, of which 24,162 cases were rape.

In statistics published by Complete University Guide, in 2020 for every 1000 people in Nottingham, there was an astonishing 334 sexual assault cases. This is an exceptionally high amount of cases compared to other areas of the UK.

However, it’s also been reported, by The Crime Survey for England and Wales, that 83% of sexual assault cases are not filed with the police. This could mean that the figures for Nottingham are even higher than estimated.

From what has been gathered as a general consensus, it would seem that students know very little about the true crime rates relating to sexual assault in Nottingham.

Despite Nottingham Trent University releasing a campaign last year, titled ‘Consent is Everything’ and having a ‘Sexual Violence Awareness Week’, still many students had very little information about the occurrences in their own city. Likewise, with the University of Nottingham, who have worked with sexual violence prevention organisations, students were still being put at risk and lacked the information necessary to stay safe. It was reported in 2016 that the University of Nottingham had ranked 2nd for the number of accusations made against staff involving sexual harassment.

What is being done?

Nottingham City Council is attempting to tackle the pressing issue. In June of 2018 ,  The Nottingham Post announced that a new service , costing £800,000, would be in place to help victims of sexual violence, offering both practical and emotional support.  ISAS (Incest and Sexual Abuse survivors) is offering a number of helpful services such as various types of therapy and counselling for both the victim and their family. Aimed at helping both men and women, over the age of 16, for as long as they need supporting.

If you or someone you know, has been affected by sexual assault or harassment in any way, please have a look at the helpful websites below. You are not alone in this and someone will be able to help you through this.

Sexual Assault: Awareness and Recovery for Students

• Support for men affected by unwanted sexual experiences

SupportLine aimed at those who are isolated, at risk, vulnerable and victims of any form of abuse.

ISIA for incest and sexual abuse survivors

NottinghamshireSexual Violence Support Services