1. ITV Report

169 QUB students ‘suffered sex attacks’

A survey of more than 3,000 students at Queen’s University Belfast has found that 169 people suffered serious sexual assaults.

Nearly 19% of the attacks were said to have happened on Queen’s University property, with nearly 50% carried out in accommodation and nearly 20% in non-university pubs and clubs.

More than 85% of the victims were women and more than 35% of the perpetrator were said to have been “known to be connected to QUB”.

Over 70% of perpetrators and 68% of victims were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Over 13% of the victims were coerced into taking alcohol or drugs.

Percentage of sex attack victims who experienced a negative impact on their mental health

Researchers were further told that 246 people experienced at least one episode of an attempted serious sexual assault.

The Stand Together Survey, carried out by QUB students over a six-week period in February and March 2016, is the first report on non-consensual student experiences in Northern Ireland.

Those behind the research are calling for more robust education on sexual consent and healthy relationships, and for improved pathways for students to report allegations of sexual attacks.

A call has also been made for more support for victims.

Only 14 people who suffered a sex attack or attempted sex attack reported it to police. Only six people reported their experience to QUB.

The percentage of people who suffered a sex attack or attempted sex attack who did not tell anyone

In a statement, Queen’s University Belfast said it was “committed to supporting the health and well-being of its students and staff”.

A spokesperson added that Queen’s has been working pro-actively with the Students’ Union and external partners on related issues.

Actions being taken include awareness raising campaigns and education programmes around consent; development of a Sexual Misconduct Policy; and the recruitment of a new member of staff who will specialise in supporting safe and healthy relationships.

South Belfast Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said there was still a long way to go to address issues of sexual consent.

People must be able to enjoy a night out without having to fear sexual assault or indeed inappropriate sexual conduct of any time. This should not be a big ask.

– Paula Bradshaw, Alliance MLA

“It would be extremely alarming if just one student had reported they had been a victim of a sexual assault, but for nearly 6% of those surveyed to do so is frightening,” Ms Bradshaw said.

“What is required is a fundamental culture change, recognising that any form of unwanted sexual approach is wrong and ensuring that it is discouraged by everyone.

“I commend the Student Consent Research Collaboration group on its work highlighting the issue and note classes are now being run by Queen's University.

“However, this is a clear call to action to do far more, across all strands of society, to stop sexual assault.”

Sinn Féin MLA and Equality spokesperson Megan Fearon also called for action following the study.

The group’s efforts may encourage silent survivors to come forward and share their experiences, and they should be commended.

– Megan Fearon, Sinn Féin MLA

“The results of this survey are a damning indication of the lack of knowledge in our society about sexual consent, and of the rates of sexual assault among students,” Ms Fearon said.

“Disproportionate rates of sexual violence against women and members of the LBGTQ community were prevalent themes in particular.

“As the first survey of its kind in the north, this work will be instrumental in providing an evidence base for authorities to take action on the proposed recommendations of the group.”

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