Frustration builds across UK over universities’ sexual assault policies

new study points to rising discontent among university students with their institution’s ability to support and combat sexual harassment on campus.

The trend has led to campaigns across the UK calling for resources, training, and support to university staff in order to help them protect their student population.

Drinkaware, an independent organisation which works to educate people on the dangers of irresponsible alcohol consumption, published a poll in which the vast majority of student respondents expressed dissatisfaction with their university’s approach toward deterring harassment, counselling victims and punishing offenders.

The poll went on to specify that more than 60 per cent of students said they wanted their universities to campaign more heavily to the student population against sexual harassment, while 56 per cent said they wanted their universities to provide free counselling services for anyone who is a victim of it.

Over 70 per cent of poll responders expressed unhappiness at the amount of disciplinary action taken by their universities against those found guilty of harassing fellow students.

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Various campaigns similar to Drinkaware have sprung up across the UK in reaction to the student frustration.  The movements specialise in spreading awareness and providing help and resources to combat the rising issue of sexual harassment on campus.

One such campaign, Good Night Out, has partnered with Drinkaware to host training sessions prior to this academic year for university student unions’ staff across the UK.

So far, the organisation has hosted these workshops for 17 universities. Among these institutions are the University of Bristol, Cambridge University, Warwick University, the University of Glasgow, King’s College London and the London School of Economics.

Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) is also included among those who have held Good Night Out workshops for staff.

Early efforts are starting to pay off, according to current students.

First year Biomedical student Alyssa Banks told The Student she was happy to see many signs and notices emblazoned with messages of support for and solidarity with victims of sexual harassment.

Banks, a member of the University’s Feminist Society and volunteer for the counselling service Nightline, also praised the messages and advice for those who might find themselves in unwanted or frightening positions during their nights out.

She told The Student: “The signs were not only around Pollock Halls and the JMCC but also around the George Square Campus and Student Union Building in Teviot Square.

“It is really good to see these posters and such available for public viewing because it brings something that is generally hush-hush into normal conversation.

“The key to solving these issues is education and support for victims, because the more people know and the more empowered they feel, the stronger and safer our community will be.”

Image credit: EUSA

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