Glasgow Guardian survey reveals nearly 40% of respondents have been sexually harassed or assaulted

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Credit: Pixabay / Michael Beckwith

Katy Scott
Investigations Editor

Two-thirds of those who reported the incident were unhappy with how it was dealt with

The Glasgow Guardian recently conducted a survey which revealed that 37.6% of respondents have been a victim of sexual harassment or assault throughout their time at the University of Glasgow.

Eleven instances occurred in the Glasgow University Union (GUU), three in the Queen Margaret Union (QMU), and nine in student halls. Fourteen incidents happened in a city centre bar or club.

15.8% reported the incident to the University of Glasgow, and a third of those who did not report the incident were unaware that they could report it to the University. Two-thirds of those who reported the incident were unhappy with how it was dealt with, and over half would not feel comfortable reporting any further instances due to their negative experience.

11.4% of respondents experienced sexual harassment or assault during Freshers’ Week at the University of Glasgow, with ten incidents occurring in one of the two unions on campus. 84.6% did not report the incident to a person in a position of responsibility, with half saying they did not feel comfortable reporting it. None of the people who reported the incident were happy with how it was dealt with.

One respondent said: “It continued and drove me to attempt suicide. The person responsible was a member of my faculty staff.”

Another stated: “I have been sexually assaulted on campus before and when I reported it to the university, they said they would support me by going to the police as long as I ‘kept the establishment out of the papers’”.

Another participant said: “As a man, I was mocked by the friends I confided about being raped by this girl in my dorm [sic] saying I must’ve wanted it and that guys can’t really get raped. As a man I feel like there is no support for us victims, even organisations like the Feminist Society at Glasgow Uni [sic] don’t seem to support my problems as they always focus on problems of this nature when they affect women and I feel left out and ignored. The whole world seems to not care about victims like myself just because of my gender.”

The Glasgow Guardian asked: “How did the harassment(s) affect your ability to study and participate in your degree at the University of Glasgow?” Nine people said that it did not affect them at all. Others remarked that they did not feel safe in particular locations on campus including the GUU, QMU, their student halls, or their learning environment.

One participant stated: “I was raped by a fellow student when I was in first year. I went on a date with someone who I had mutual friends with, just hoping to have a drink, but he drugged me and took me home and raped me. As a naive Fresher, where all my friends around me were talking about how much of a ‘mad shagger’ they were, I did not realise what had happened to me, and the person who raped me emotionally manipulated me into thinking nothing had happened. Later on, I realized what had actually happened, and this led to me experiencing severe depression and PTSD for almost a year.”

Another remarked: “It was taken to the University Senate but the perpetrator was basically only given a slap on the wrist. They were eventually effectively socially ostracised from everyone else in the class and changed courses of their own accord – not because they were told to by an authority.”

One respondent noted: “Harassment in our society has become normal and expected, especially for girls, and it’s so ingrained in us to accept that we are viewed as sexual objects so it can be difficult to even view it as something that is wrong when really it should be reported. It doesn’t even faze me anymore if I am catcalled because it just happens too many times to count.”

Some students reported accounts of the University dealing with reports of sexual harassment successfully, saying: “An incident occurred with another student on my course. The University quickly responded and investigated the issue. Appropriate action was taken by University staff.”

14% of respondents think that the two unions do enough to combat sexism and sexist behaviours within their buildings. One disagreed, stating: “Not really, they seem to think if nobody makes any noise about it then it’s not a problem, especially the QMU. There’s a culture of sweeping things under the rug and hoping nobody notices.”

Another student commented on further discriminations they witnessed in the unions, saying: “No, especially not GUU, the amount of homophobia I’ve seen as well is foul.”

Another remarked: “I can only speak knowledgeably about the GUU and the SRC, but things would be improved tenfold if they could somehow ensure that their helpers reflect the attitudes of their execs [sic]. The student bodies can say they’re working on sexual violence as much as they like but as long as they tolerate the ‘lads lads lads’ bullshit among their helpers, nothing will actually change.”

The Glasgow Guardian asked participants to rate the success of the efforts of the unions, the SRC, and the University of Glasgow in combatting sexism and sexist behaviours on a scale from one to five, with one being unsuccessful and five being successful. The GUU was rated the lowest, with 31% of respondents rating the Union 1 or 2 out of 5, whereas the SRC, QMU, and the University of Glasgow received 13.7%, 15.5%, and 18.9% respectively.

One student commented: “I am not aware of initiatives by the unions aimed at combating sexual assault/harassment during events hosted by the unions. More information on-site about said resources would be helpful.”

Another stated: “GUU/GUSA are still very sexist and I don’t know of any special procedures the other unions have.”

All Freshers helpers receive sexual violence prevention training before the week begins. Night buses run between student halls and campus throughout the week, and every year student candidates run for election with initiatives to combat sexual violence on campus, including trialling a safe space policy at HIVE.

A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said: “The University of Glasgow has a zero tolerance policy on sexual misconduct and gender-based violence. We encourage anyone to report any incident of inappropriate behaviour. The University recently published its Personal Relationships Policy https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/humanresources/equalitydiversity/policy/prp/. The policy underlines our commitment to tackling sexual misconduct. We have also recently introduced an online reporting tool through which students can report incidents and seek support.”

However, some respondents argued that more needed to be done. To combat sexual harassment and assault across campus, students recommend compulsory consent classes, legitimising and providing support for male victims, spreading awareness of reporting procedures, and ensuring that the University and societies on campus have a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment.

A respondent concluded: “I think it is more about awareness of behaviour which is unwanted/uncomfortable isn’t acceptable and you can report it. Honestly, I wasn’t aware of the extent to which the actions of these others were not okay, and I think that knowing that I wasn’t overreacting would have made me more likely to report it.”

The Glasgow Guardian’s survey on sexual harassment on campus received 115 responses, with 57% of respondents aged 20-23. 71.1% identified as female, and 85.1% are current students at the University of Glasgow. The survey was open for two weeks.