3 in 4 FE students suffer unwanted sexual experiences

NUS: 'This culture has been normalised to such an extent that unhealthy sexual behaviour has become harder to identify'

Kate Parker

Sexual harassment in further education, Sexual harassment in FE, Sexual violence, rape, sexual assult

Three-quarters of further education students have encountered at least one unwanted sexual experience, according to a survey by the NUS students' union.

According to a survey by the NUS Women's Campaign, three in 10 students had been pressured to establish an unwanted sexual or romantic relationship, and one in seven had experienced attempted rape or unwanted sexual intercourse.

Out of more than 500 UK-based FE students who responded to the survey, just 14 per cent of those who had experienced any form of unwanted sexual behaviour had reported it, and disabled students were significantly more likely than non-disabled respondents to have experienced sexual misconduct at least once.

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Action needed

The survey also found that one in three of the sexual harassment experiences took place at a college, of which 87 per cent happened outside of the classroom.

The NUS women's officer, Sarah Lasoye, said that an urgent response was needed to tackle sexual harassment in FE institutions.

"This culture has been normalised to such an extent that unhealthy sexual behaviour has become harder to identify," 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."

One threat 'is too many'

David Hughes, the chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that the report made for sobering reading.

“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,” he said.

The AoC is urging the NUS and the Department for Education to establish a working group with college leaders to make sure that best practice is shared, unacceptable behaviour is stamped out and victims are supported. 

The report's recommendations for colleges

  • Develop robust policies and reporting procedures to tackle sexual harassment and violence that interlink with broader institutional policies.

  • Review support services centring on student survivors' welfare and wellbeing.

  • Promote alternative masculinities.

  • Provide workshops on consent and healthy relationships.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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