Rape scandals engulf British universities

Since the scandal of the leaked Warwick university Whatsapp chat, similar secrets have unravelled in several other UK universities. According to several studies, over the past two years alone the number of students at top universities who have been investigated for offensive comments made on social media chats has almost tripled. Students, mostly females, seem to be increasingly being subjected to racism, sexual harrasement, homophobia and sexual violence. The National Union of Students has said sexual harassment has been normalised on campus and universities were not doing enough to curb the behaviour. Rape and sexual assault reports have been on the rise with Cambridge University seeing some of the highest number of complaints in the country. The number of allegations in universities has risen from 65 in 2014 to 626 in 2018, according to Freedom of Information requests.

In recent years students in universities across the UK such as Goldsmiths, University of London, Roehampton and Bristol have protested against their institution’s response to sexual harassment claims. Many students feel universities have failed to protect them. The main reasons why people have been quick to voice their concerns that universities were not doing enough to protect students, seems to be owing to the fact that most reported cases are thrown out, or universities have simply been issued students with light warnings and allowed them to return to campus. Amongst those who feel let down by the system is former University of Cambridge student Danielle Bradford. She claims that she was discouraged from launching a formal complaint despite being allegedly bombarded with sexually suggestive texts from a course supervisor. 

Over the last five years, UEA has had the highest reports of inappropriate sexual conduct from 2014 to 2018   with 281 reports. Neighbouring university, University of Cambridge was second with 165 reports, even though their figures are only for the last three years, followed by the University of Birmingham with 87. Many universities were quick to defend the figures stating that they were not a true reflection of the rape cases on their campuses as some occured out of campus.  

UEA was quick to respond to the questions over why their figures were high, stating it had been working with its uea(su) over the last five years to encourage students to report any suspected misconduct or sexual harassment. They said the increasing figures only showed their campaign was working.



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Bryan Mfhaladi