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Sexual harassment rife among students with one in three incidents occurring at college, report finds

The Independent – Education News

Sexual abuse is commonplace in further education colleges with one in seven students saying they have been raped or subjected to an attempted rape, according to research from the National Union of Students (NUS).

The survey, which is the first time the NUS Women’s Campaign has looked at UK college students, shows that three in four have experienced some form of unwanted sexual behaviour.

More than one in three students have experienced unwanted sexual contact, such as pinching or groping, while a similar proportion had someone attempt to kiss them against their will.

The survey, of more than 500 students, shows that one in three student experiences of sexual harassment took place at college – and a fifth of these took place during class.

Unwanted sexual behaviour has left students feeling unsafe at college, with some missing class and considering dropping out as a result of sexual violence and harassment.

It comes after campaigners warned last month that students are sharing sexual abuse allegations on social media as universities are failing to listen to them and subjecting them to poor treatment.

Speaking about sexual harassment in colleges, Sarah Lasoye, women’s officer of the NUS, said the culture had been “normalised” making it harder to identify unhealthy sexual behaviour.

She said: “While students may understand the concept of consent they struggle to put it into practice, with women fearing revenge and anger from men, and LGBT+ and disabled students at the sharpest end of sexual violence.

“The sooner we can open up our understanding of feminism and educate young people on sexual harassment and assault, along with healthy and transformative gender relations, the sooner we will be able to eradicate the toxic behaviours and attitudes that replicate and concretise themselves in the minds of young people.”

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David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), is calling for a working group with college leaders to be set up, adding the report made for “sobering reading”.

He said: “For most students, campuses are a safe space, with safeguarding at the heart of everything that colleges do. However, one act or threat of sexual violence is one too many.

“Reporting sexual violence and threats of sexual violence is never easy but we would urge students to speak to staff so that they can provide them with the right levels of support and protection and to help them to improve their zero tolerance policies.”

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