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Student rape: Three-quarters of all attacks not reported | UK News

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Only a quarter of students who are raped reported their attack to the police, according to a new survey.

New research suggests that sexual violence and harassment is widespread at universities, and that many students lack knowledge around consent.

Nearly half of the female students (49%) said they were inappropriately touched but only 5% reported it to anyone in authority – including the police or staff at their university.

Only 8% of all students who say they have received unwanted sexual behaviours, such as inappropriate touching, explicit messages, cat-calling, being followed, or being forced into sex or sexual acts, have reported it.

In comparison, the Office for National Statistics in 2018 said less than 20% of all victims of sexual assaults report them to police.

Almost a third of incidents (30%) took place on campus and more than half of all respondents (53%) said they have faced sexual harassment or violence from a fellow student.

The survey results suggest many students still lack understanding around consent and what constitutes sexual harassment and violence.

More than half (56%) of students say they have experienced unwanted sexual behaviours at university but only 15% of those realised that constitutes sexual harassment.

Only half of students (52%) understood that if someone is drunk (incapacitated by alcohol), they are unable to give consent. Some 18% said they didn’t know.

A small number of students did not know that consent is needed every time you have sex – even if you have slept with that person before, or that you can be sexually assaulted by your partner.

Helen Marshall, chief executive of Brook, believes that poor relationships and sex education in schools means young people are being failed.

The survey found only half of students asked had received information on consent. That figure fell to less than a third when asked about harassment education.

Ms Marshall said: “If ever there was a reminder of the importance of high quality, comprehensive relationships and sex education (RSE) in schools and universities – this is it. We are failing our young people if they don’t know that the law protects them from the unwanted behaviours they are experiencing.”

Elsie Whittington was raped by her partner at university - but did know recognise the attack in those terms at the time
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Elsie Whittington was raped by her partner at university – but did know recognise the attack in those terms at the time

Elsie Whittington, from Manchester, was forced to have sex by her partner at university but did not recognise the attack as rape at the time.

“It took me the next two years to even recognise and start to use the label of rape about that experience. I’d written it off as bad, but not rape because it wasn’t violent, although I had said no multiple times,” she told Sky News.”

Friends at the time told her she was a victim of rape, but Elsie says she felt confused and didn’t feel like a typical victim as the attack had not been violent, she loved him and he had felt bad about it afterwards.

“I didn’t talk about it much after we broke up and just kind of filed it away as a bad experience that I never want again – telling myself I’d be more assertive about my boundaries in future,” she said.

After taking a course on body politics, Elsie came to realise the reality of what had been done to her. After learning more about it, her experience has shaped her life and she now researches and teaches on sexual consent.

She said: “We need to get better at teaching and talking about consent in schools and universities. I think it is especially important to talk about these ‘grey areas’ of consent’ (which is where many young people’s experiences lie) but also the awkward conversations and negotiation that have to happen in the build up to sex.”

Some 5,649 UK university students were surveyed between 10 and 18 January 2019, in what is believed to be the largest survey of its kind.

Designed by young people’s sexual health charity Brook, the survey was conducted by Absolute Research on behalf of the Dig-In database, which works with students.

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