54 per cent of female University of York students have been sexually assaulted

In a new report on sexual violence at York, one student said the uni ‘doesn’t take sexual assault seriously’

TW: Sexual assault and harassment

54 per cent of female York students have been sexually assaulted, and 71 per cent say they wouldn’t feel comfortable reporting their harassment or assault to the university.

The Last Taboo, a York based organisation aiming to tackle the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment across the UK published a report last week, detailing the extent of sexual violence at the University of York and the effectiveness of how incidents are handled by the university.

Co-founded by two York students, Kelly Balmer and Imogen Horrocks, The Last Taboo gained traction after information arose surrounding the Joseph Mckeown case and the process of reporting sexual violence at the University of York. Launching consultations in November, The Last Taboo has received 419 responses by York students and has developed recommendations for the university to take forward in terms of addressing the issue.

The report, which can be found here, found that 91 per cent of students feel that the university has a duty to educate students on issues of sexual assault and harassment but only 11.1 per cent agree that they feel educated on sexual violence.

65 per cent do not know how to find support after sexual assault or harassment.

54 per cent of women who completed the consultation had been sexually assaulted, compared to 36 per cent of students who identify as men.

Less than a third of students rated their experience of reporting at York “good” or “very good” with one student suggesting the university “doesn’t take sexual assault seriously, their primary objective is to cover their backs and avoid bad press.”

Another student suggested “I was made to feel like I’d over-reacted and misinterpreted his behaviour and was told that I should work on not being paranoid. A very negative and anxiety-inducing experience.”

The report also found 57 per cent of students have been spiked and 88 per cent do not know how to access support after an incident of spiking.

Furthermore, 71 per cent of those who identify as women wouldn’t feel comfortable reporting harassment or assault to the university.

Similarly, 68 per cent of LGBTQ+ students and 70 per cent of BAME students who completed the consultation suggest that they also would not feel comfortable reporting these incidents to the University of York.

The Last Taboo suggests that “whilst the University of York is by no means the worst university for handling sexual violence the report clearly suggests that students feel that changes need to be made to improve the situation at the University.”

These statistics have changed due to Covid too. 34 per cent of students suggested they have been sexually assaulted or harassed within their home since March 2020, with 73 per cent of these perpetrators being a fellow student housemate.

The Last Taboo told the York Tab: “We hope the report is going to be a productive step forwards for the University of York in terms of listening to its students and acting on the issues they are raising in regards to sexual violence. As well, we hope that the reports help students feel that they are not alone in experiencing sexual violence at university, and that is something that a lot of students encounter.”

After the consultation with students and staff, over 50 recommendations were drafted to the university to improve their handling of sexual violence. Some of these recommendations included clearer guidelines on how staff members should manage disclosures of sexual violence and what the following safeguarding procedures are for staff when this happens and improved consent training for students.

A University of York spokesperson has told the York Tab: “We welcome the report, which is being presented to our Student Life Committee this week for consideration.

“The University takes the issue of sexual violence and harassment extremely seriously, but it would be inappropriate to comment in detail until colleagues have had an opportunity to read the report in full and consider its findings.

“We have a number of measures in place already to support students, including our Sexual Violence Liaison Offers, who offer one-to-one practical and emotional support, and advice about internal and external support services.”

Support services are linked here and The University of York Support and Report tool can be found here for students at the university affected by sexual violence.