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NUS research reveals one in four students suffer unwelcome sexual advances

Monday 15 September 2014 Women

NUS President, Toni Pearce today called on UK universities to join NUS in its work on tackling lad culture on UK campuses. The call comes as new research reveals that one in four students (26 per cent) have suffered unwelcome sexual advances, defined as inappropriate touching and groping.

More than a third of women students (37 per cent) said they had faced unwelcome sexual advances.

In the survey of over 2,000 men and women students almost one third of respondents said they endure unwanted sexual comments about their body (12 per cent of men, 37 per cent of women).

Two thirds of respondents said they have seen students put up with unwanted sexual comments, with just under one third bearing witness to verbal harassment based on a student’s gender.

75 per cent of students are aware of online communities such as ‘Unilad’ and ‘Lad Bible’ with almost two thirds of women students (63 per cent) agreeing that these contribute to an unfair representation of women.

Over half of survey respondents believed that women students are more vulnerable than men.

60 per cent of respondents said they were not aware of any codes of conduct implemented by their university or students’ unions that prohibit or tackle sexual conversations, sexual comments, unwelcomed sexual advances, group intimidation and verbal harassment.

NUS President Toni Pearce said:

'These stats show that harassment is rife on campus, but we still we keep hearing from universities that there is no fear, no intimidation, no problem - well this new research says otherwise.

'Sadly, all of these elements exist in campus life, we know because we hear it from students. They told us in the Hidden Marks report in 2010, they revealed the depths of lad culture in ‘That’s what she said’ last year, and they've spoken again today.

'Today I say to universities everywhere the passing the buck approach of ‘not on my campus’ is now completely unacceptable. They must acknowledge the problems and join us in confronting them.

'NUS took the first step with the launch of That’s What She Said; women students experiences of lad culture in higher education’ (March 2013) and has since worked to make sure we can support students unions to effectively tackle these problems, details of which I am proud to share today.

'Our Lad Culture National Strategy Team that includes students, students unions, and a range of external stakeholders, is launching a pilot scheme for five to ten UK unions that will assess what lad culture looks like on their campus, and what is currently in place to tackle lad culture.

'We need a new deal for students. Nobody should feel diminished, disrespected or unsafe on campus, and it is vital that behaviours resulting in this are challenged. Students unions and universities must work together to create a campuses that are welcoming, safe and supportive to all.'

Lad Culture National Strategy Team Ambassador Laura Bates said:

'Students, are experiencing sexism, sexual harassment and assault within the university environment. It is worth mentioning that one category of such experiences, "inappropriate touching and groping" actually constitutes sexual assault under UK law.

'Though many students would not label it as such, this normalisation and lack of awareness is a major part of the problem.'

Since their Lad Culture Summit in February of this year, NUS has been working to ensure that unions take responsibility and tackle this lack of awareness. The National Strategy Team will launch its lad culture pilot scheme for unions next month, with the central aim of supporting unions to develop a cross-institutional strategy team to examine ways to tackle lad culture together on individual campuses.

Defined by NUS research (2013) ‘That’s What She Said; women students experiences of lad culture in higher education’ lad culture is a set of  behaviours and attitudes that dominate social behaviours - social norms that belittle, dismiss, joke about or even seem to condone rape and sexual assault.

Click here to read the new research