Sexual assault at university: Where to get help
Information about sexual assault at university, and where you can find support and advice.
Sexual harassment and assault at university
Sadly, sexism is often more than ‘laddish banter’, and can escalate to harassment, physical violence and rape.
According to a 2019 survey conducted by Brook, more than half of UK students – predominantly female – said they’d experienced unwanted sexual behaviour. This can range from minor cases of groping to severe instances of rape and violence.
The same survey found that the majority of cases go unreported. This may be because victims feel frightened or ashamed. Or they’re apprehensive about reporting an incident, as they think it won’t be taken seriously. These are normal emotional responses, but the victim has done nothing wrong or has anything to be ashamed of.
Do not suffer alone
If you’ve experienced some form of sexual violence, talk to someone – be it a friend, family, university or medical staff, student support services or a specialist organisation. Sexual violence is a criminal offence and you can report an assault to the police, although you don’t have to. The support mechanisms are there to be used.
Help at university
All universities will provide access to support, though services offered at each will vary. This could be from:
- Halls of residence wardens who often live on-site among students and can be an immediate source of help
- Pastoral advisers and counselling support which can be easily found on most campuses
- Peer support networks that are often offered as an alternative to traditional services, for those who would find it easier to talk to a fellow student
- Welfare and women’s support which is available from students’ union office
Help from a specialist support organisation
It’s easy to get specialist external support, advice and general confidential help. None of the organisations listed below will make you report an assault to the police if you don’t want to. These services offer advice to all genders. You can contact them by email if you don’t want to speak on the phone.
Nightline is a telephone support service, operated on university campuses around the country. Run by students for students, it usually operates from 8 pm until 8 am. Volunteers are specially trained and the service is confidential and anonymous. Some nightlines offer support via email, IM, text or face-to-face.
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Rape Crisis is a charity, heading up a network of independent Rape Crisis member organisations. They offer free, confidential and safe support and information for victims of sexual violence. You can email, drop into a local centre, or phone helplines.
England and Wales – find a Rape Crisis centre – helpline 0808 802 9999.
Ireland – find a Rape Crisis centre – 24-hour helpline 1800 778888.
Scotland – find a Rape Crisis centre – helpline 0808 801 0302.
Sexual assault referral centres
Centres provide services to victims of rape or sexual assault. Search for a centre near you, or search by postcode or place name.
Victim Support offers support to everyone affected by crime.
England and Wales – telephone 0808 16 89 111 – email email@example.com
Northern Ireland – telephone 028 9024 3133 – email firstname.lastname@example.org
Scotland – telephone 0345 603 9213 (not a freephone number) – or find Victim Support in your area