CUSU survey exposes shocking levels of sexual assault among Cantabs

Jocelyn Major 25 April 2014

A survey by CUSU Women’s Campaign and Varsity Newspaper has revealed shocking statistics on sexual assault in Cambridge, with 28.5% of respondents having been sexually assaulted and a further 3% being subjected to assault by penetration.

The survey, which aimed to collect data on the prevalence of sexual violence among the student body of Cambridge, received responses from 2,126 students. The high number of unreported sexual assaults discovered by the survey has highlighted sexual assault as a real concern for Cambridge students.

35% of respondents said they had been subjected to sexual harassment, including groping, touching without consent and inappropriate sexual comments. Anonymous comments published by the survey detail the type of harassment experienced, with one respondent noting: “A male student in my college lifted my top to expose my bra in front of his friends (who laughed) in my college bar. It was packed, but no one stepped forward to help me or tell him to stop. I felt uncomfortable going to the bar for a while after.”


                         Students on a Reclaim the Night March  Photo: Cambridge Women's Campaign

Reasons cited for the high number of sexual assaults included the ‘lad culture’ propagated by social drinking cultures. A high number of incidents occurred at swaps and drinking societies and 78% of perpetrators had been drinking. Furthermore, 35% incidents occurred within colleges and 50% at night clubs.

Night clubs were the most common place for sexual harassment to occur and one respondent said: “I have been sexually assaulted so much in clubs I am afraid to go to them, and now in non-club venues (such as gigs) I now feel a little paranoid due to past club experiences.”

The survey showed that both male and female students were at risk of sexual assault. However, 91% of perpetrators were male, showing the heavily gendered nature of such incidents. From these statistics, 50% of perpetrators were known to the victim and 10 of these were cited as members of academic staff.


                    Photo: Roberto Hipp  

Another major concern raised by the survey was the number of incidents which went unreported, standing at 88%.

In response to this, CUSU Women’s Officer Lauren Steele noted: “The Women’s Campaign will continue to work with Women’s Officers and JCRs to implement compulsory consent workshops in September for incoming freshers.” The survey suggested further preventative measures which could be adopted by colleges, such as promoting the university’s zero tolerance policy to sexual harassment through college websites and tackling drinking cultures. The survey noted the duty of the college to provide a safe space for students, suggesting action should be taken against the normalisation of drinking cultures.

Lauren Steele is now looking to act on the survey’s findings and said: “This year, I have presented proposals to University Committees and am currently in the process of collaborating with the University and colleges on potential projects and policies to be considered for implementation.”

The Varsity article can be found here.