We know it’s an issue and it’s not always easy to know how to respond to it: sexual harassment on campus.
Here’s our information and advice to help you deal with it, or to support a friend if they tell you they’ve experienced sexual violence at uni.
1. Understand what harassment looks like – and that you are not responsible for it
You are not responsible for tackling sexual harassment on campus: your university is, your educators are, and lawmakers are. This is not on you – we look forward to a world where society steps up and makes every space safe for every person.
Being able to recognise unacceptable behaviour is powerful in the meantime. It can empower you to call for change, to support others when needed, and to know if someone crosses a line with you. Try Fumble’s That’s Harassment series here, or head to Brook’s guide here.
You don’t have to call out sexual harassment in the moment – again, it’s not on you to tackle or fix it. If you feel up to it and want to call it out, try saying something calmly and firmly that closes down the behaviour: “That’s not cool, it’s sexual harassment. Please stop.” Then walk away.
2. Get support and, if you want, you can report it
You’re not expected to know all the answers and you’re not alone. There are resources for support here if you or a friend have experienced sexual harassment.
You can report inappropriate behaviour that happens either to you or to others: search for your university name + ‘report inappropriate behaviour’ in any online search engine. There will be a way to report it, and you can almost always do this anonymously.
- Here’s an example of reporting to the University of Sheffield.
- Here’s an example for the University of Cambridge.
If you or a friend want to report an incident to the police, you can go to the local police station or a SARC. You will be guided through the process by specially trained police officers or SARC staff. There’s more information on reporting rape or sexual assault here.
Men experience sexual violence, and there are specific organisations such as Mankind and SurvivorsUK that offer support especially for men. Galop offers support especially for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
If you want to talk to someone who can offer advice before making a decision on what to do next, you can ring the Rape Crisis helpline.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, email us and we’ll do our best to help: email@example.com
3. When someone tells you their experiences, believe them
If someone tells you they’ve experienced sexual violence of any kind, believe them. This is really important.
Many victims of sexual violence don’t say anything because they worry that they won’t be believed. It can be incredibly difficult to share such personal trauma with someone else, so recognise that.
Tell them that you believe them and that they’re brave for sharing their experience. Make sure that they feel they made the right decision in voicing what happened to them.
4. Do not blame them
If someone tells you they’ve experienced sexual harassment, don’t blame them in any way. They are not to blame for the sexual violence they experienced. No one asks or deserves to be a victim of sexual violence. The perpetrator is to blame.
Make sure you don’t push the blame onto them. Victim-blaming culture is very prominent, so it’s easy to do it without even realising.
Avoid anything that makes them explain their situation or judges them. Don’t ask what they were wearing, or if they were drunk, or why they were at that party, walking home at night, at a person’s house.
Don’t ask why they didn’t tell you sooner. If they didn’t yell or fight back, don’t ask why. All these things are irrelevant.
5. Look after yourself too!
Remember to look after yourself if you’re supporting a friend who has experienced sexual violence. It can be incredibly difficult.
Look after your mental health. If you want to talk about supporting a friend in confidence, you can also call the Rape Crisis helpline.
You’re not alone. Our full guide to supporting a friend who has experienced sexual violence is available here.
Last reviewed: 10 September 2021
Image Credit: Tim Gouw via Unsplash