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  1. ITV Report

Shocking scale of sexual violence at universities exposed

Almost two-thirds of students and graduates at British universities have experienced sexual violence, shocking new figures have revealed.

In research exposing the full scale of the problem for the first time, campaign group Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room found that 62% had suffered sexual assault or harassment or both while studying.

They spoke to just under 5,000 current and past students, both male and female, from more than 150 UK institutions.

And an ITV News investigation has found that the highest number of reported rapes, assaults and harassment took place at the University of East Anglia - with 135 incidents over the past five years.

62%
experienced sexual violence at British universities
70%
of female students experienced sexual violence
26%
of male students experienced sexual violence

The second highest number was at the University of Surrey, which had 40 reports.

But, according to the research, only a fraction of those who experienced sexual violence - around 6% - said they had reported their experience to the university, and just 10% to police.

Hannah Price founded Revolt Sexual Assault after her own experience.

Revolt Sexual Assault was founded by Hannah Price, who said she had suffered everything from harassment to rape while studying herself - but said she had not reported the rape to the university, because she felt she couldn't.

She waived her right to anonymity in order to speak out about her experience.

He started to get quite aggressive, and then he grabbed my arm really hard and pushed me against the sofa.

I felt dirty and violated. And just really ashamed of what had happened.

The thing with university is that it's like no other area. You're living, studying, socialising, working with these people every day.

It feels easier to talk yourself out of the fact that it happened than to do anything about it.

– Hannah Price, Revolt Sexual Assault

She set up Revolt Sexual Assault to try to "bridge the gap" between institutions and student sexual attack survivors.

The University of East Anglia has the highest number of reports. Credit: ITV News

Universities with the highest rates of reported rape, sexual assault and harassment over the last five years:

  • 135 - University of East Anglia
  • 40 - University of Surrey
  • 38 - Swansea University
  • 34 - Middlesex University, London*
  • 29 - Kingston University*
  • 28 - Keele University, Staffordshire
  • 27 - University of Kent*
  • 27 - Nottingham Trent University
  • 26 - Durham University, Durham and Stockton-on-Tees
  • 26 - University of Liverpool
  • 25+ - University of Bristol*
  • 24-36 - Lancaster University
  • 21 - University of Essex*
  • 20+ - Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 20 - University of Edinburgh
  • 20 - University of Bath
  • 20 - Loughborough University
  • 20 - University of York*
  • 19 - University of Chester, Chester and Warrington*
  • 18 - University of Bedfordshire, Luton and Bedford
  • 18 - Sheffield Hallam University
  • 18 - University of Stirling, Bridge of Allan*

* Universities which provided data by academic years

Experiences like Hannah's show that 'work is needed' to tackle the problem, Universities UK said. Credit: ITV News

The survey found that just 6% of those who had experienced sexual violence reported it to their university, and just 10% to police.

When asked why, more than half said they didn't feel it was serious enough, while 35% said they felt ashamed.

Only 2% of those who experienced sexual assault or harassment both reported it to their university and were satisfied with the process.

A spokesman for Revolt Sexual Assault said: “We want to see a uniform national response to what now must be recognised as a nation-wide issue – an enforced and consistent standard of care implemented across the higher education sector, with student survivors at its heart.”

In response, a spokesman for Universities UK - which represents institutions across the country - said the findings showed there was "work to do" to tackle the problem.

Universities UK is committed to ensuring that all students and staff have a safe and positive experience in higher education and all universities have a duty to provide that outcome.

Our taskforce report recommended that universities develop effective procedures and centralised reporting systems for dealing with incidents of sexual harassment.

While follow-up work from the taskforce shows that universities and students’ unions have developed a range of strategies including centralised reporting systems to address harassment, there is clearly further work to do.

University leaders should ensure that policies and activities bring about real change.

– Universities UK spokesman

Sir Michael Barber, the Chair of Office for Students (Regulator of Universities) said the findings were "concerning".

"Every student is entitled to a good learning experience and social experience, and the survey is disturbing because there are large numbers of young women saying there is a problem with sexual harassment," he said.

"Perhaps even more concerning is that a large proportion of them are really reluctant to report that - and those are problems we need to address."