Nearly a third of Edinburgh University students have experienced sexual harassment, survey finds


Alex Shaw
Thursday 01 May 2014 13:02 BST

Nearly one in three Edinburgh University students have experienced sexual harassment during their time at university, a report by Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) has found.

31 per cent of the 781 students surveyed reported experiencing sexual harassment, defined as “unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature”, with 61 per cent claiming they had changed their behaviour around Edinburgh due to safety fears.

According to EUSA figures, female students were more than twice as likely to change their behaviour (72 per cent) than males (30 per cent).

Verbal harassment constituted 88 per cent of all recorded incidents.

The report stated: “Over the last few years students have seen both a rise in, and almost an acceptance of, sexual harassment in social venues like bars, clubs and union buildings.”

A spokesperson for the university said: “We are very concerned to hear about any instance of harassment, although it is reassuring that a much lower proportion of Edinburgh students experience sexual harassment than those in the [NUS’ national survey in 2010]. Edinburgh University’s dignity and respect policy makes it clear that the university does not tolerate harassment of staff or students of any kind. The university strongly supports the strategies that EUSA is taking to reduce sexual harassment and we look forward to continuing to work with EUSA on this important issue.”

While social media was seen as “a tool to highlight” sexism, it had also “played a role in an inescapable culture of sexual harassment”.

Second year politics student Marta-Emilia Bona said the results “upsetting, but also disappointingly unsurprising”.

“Sexual harassment is a huge problem both on and off campus in Edinburgh, and EUSA needs to review its method of dealing with the issue, in order to encourage more students to report incidents and to promote a safe space where students do not feel compelled to change their behaviour, for fear of sexual harassment,” she said.

While 56 per cent of respondents who had experienced sexual harassment told someone about the incident, only seven per cent reported it to the police.

A second year history student, who wished not to be named, called the results “shocking”.

They added: “The saddest thing about this is that so few people go to an authority for help. Our culture needs a huge overhaul to fix this problem.”

EUSA has developed a zero-tolerance reputation towards misogyny and lad culture this academic year.

It became the first UK student union to ban Robin Thicke’s controversial song ‘Blurred Lines’ last September and passed a motion declaring "EUSA is feminist" in December.

However, a motion to prohibit gender segregation in union buildings and events last February was voted down.

According to the National Union of Students’ Hidden Marks report, 68 per cent of 2,058 female students interviewed had been a victim of sexual harassment, with more than one in 10 a victim of “serious physical violence”.

EUSA Vice President Societies and Activities Nadia Mehdi said: “No-one should be experiencing sexual harassment during their time at university or even just during their life.

“EUSA has committed to tackling sexual harassment wherever it occurs whether it’s on our campus, in our buildings or in the city in general.”

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