*Content Warning: You may find some of the content of this report upsetting. Please do not hesitate to contact the organisations below if you feel distressed or want to talk to someone.
NEXUS NI – 028 9032 6803, 24 hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 802 1414, ROWAN: 0800 389 4424, Lifeline: 0808 808 8000
Survey results being launched show more than 1 in 4 students in NI experienced unwanted sexual behaviour
NUS-USI is launching the findings of its survey on unwanted sexual behaviour that students in Northern Ireland have experienced. This survey was the first of its kind to include all further education institutes across NI and the first to include sixteen year olds and over within that group. More than 2,200 students took part in the survey across all 11 further and higher education institutions here, and NUS-USI President Olivia Potter-Hughes is launching a report on its findings at NUS-USI annual conference today (28 March) at the Everglades Hotel in Derry/Londonderry. One of the key findings is that 28% of students surveyed had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour during their time at university or college.
NUS-USI President Olivia Potter-Hughes stated: “It is absolutely appalling that 28% of students surveyed had experienced some degree of unwanted sexual behaviour during their time at university or college. Only 5% of students who had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour who had told someone about their experiences had formally reported it, with 76% believing it wasn’t serious enough to report and 41% believing it wasn’t a crime. In our survey 5%, (over 100 students) had been raped.
“Staggeringly, 1 in 4 respondents (25%) had experienced unwanted touching or body exposure. Around 1 in 5 (21%) had another student confiding in them that they had experienced unwanted touching of a sexual nature. Overall 1 in 10 respondents (10%) had another student confiding in them about being raped.
“Another deeply troubling element of the findings of our survey is that there is a significant disparity between the views of those who had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour and those who had not. 8 in 10 (79%) of those that hadn’t experienced this, considered exposure to photographs/videos and similar behaviour as sexual harassment, compared to half (50%) of those who had experienced this believing they had been sexually harassed. Amongst those who had not experienced unwanted touching of a sexual nature, the majority (87%) considered this type of behaviour to be sexual assault. However, under half (45%) of those who had experienced unwanted touching of a sexual nature thought they had been sexually assaulted. These troubling disparities clearly illustrate the importance of delivering stronger and better resourced services to support those who have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour.
“We believe that this report and the shocking findings contained within it provide a clear evidence base for the need for government to act immediately to tackle unwanted sexual behaviour. NUS-USI has put forward a number of recommendations following on from the findings contained within this report. For example, we want government and education institutions to deliver additional support and services for people who have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour. We believe government and schools should review their relationship and sex education (RSE) programmes to ensure that the information provided puts consent at the centre of provision and that all RSE delivered in schools is inclusive and comprehensive. 62% of survey respondents want to see better RSE to help create a safer environment. We want existing support services to be better promoted by government and education institutions, and 54% of survey respondents wished to see improved awareness of support services available.
“NUS-USI believes that additional resources should be delivered to promote consent in wider society and on campus. 50% of respondents want to see campaigns raising awareness of creating a safe environment for students.
“We want training to be provided for FE and HE staff to help them address sexual violence at tertiary education institutions, and 48% of respondents to the survey want to see this delivered. We also believe that the legal definition of rape must be amended, as we believe that the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 doesn’t accurately deliver a full definition of rape. Not only does this facilitate rapists being tried for lesser sentences, retraumatizing victims/survivors in the process, it is also not inclusive of gender or sexual orientation.”
“We at NUS-USI would like to thank the students of Northern Ireland for their tremendous courage and initiative in driving for change within the area of sexual violence. These statistics are not just numbers. They are people’s lives, their experiences, and they must not be ignored.”
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