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Hidden Marks: how misogyny stains universities

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National survey reveals the extent of violence against women at universities.

‘Hidden Marks’ was the first ever nationwide report into women students’ experience of harassment, stalking, violence and sexual assault.

The report documented the findings of a survey, carried out in 2009 and 2010 by the National Union of Students, which explored the prevalence, and nature, of violence against women students.

It looked at how likely women students were to experience harassment and violence, the extent to which they reported these crimes and to whom, the profile of offenders, and the impact of such incidences on women students’ health, relationships and education.

Both UK-domiciled and international students took part, and surveys were completed by 2,000 students studying in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A UK-wide study covering full-time and part-time students in both further and higher education, it provides a snapshot of the experiences of women students, and it is not cheerful reading.

For example, 1 in 7 survey respondents said they had experienced a serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student.

Only 4 per cent of women students who have been seriously sexually assaulted have reported it to their institution.

Only 10 per cent of women students who have been seriously sexually assaulted have reported it to the police.

And of those who did not report serious sexual assault to the police, 50 per cent said it was because they felt ashamed or embarrassed, and 43 per cent because thought they would be blamed for what happened.

The Hidden Marks website was then set up as a response to these research findings.

It is, it says, for women students who have experienced (or who know someone who has experienced) rape and sexual assault, domestic violence/abuse from an intimate partner, physical violence (where the perpetrator is not an intimate partner), stalking, and/or sexual harassment.

The website offers help for women who need support or want to know their legal rights. It also looks at what can happen if you report an assault, as well as what to do if you are worried about a friend.

And it was launched even before this year’s reports in The Guardian and The Independent newspapers of increasing misogyny at Fresher’s Week events nationwide.

Sandra Horley, CEO of national domestic violence charity Refuge, said: “I am deeply saddened to hear that so many women students are experiencing violence and harassment during the course of their studies, and that so very few feel able to report the crimes against them.

“It is vital that universities create an environment where women feel confident to speak out against abuse.

“Women students need to know where they can seek help, and must feel sure that their reports will be taken seriously.

“Women have the right to enjoy university life, focus on their studies and plan for their futures, without fear of intimidation of violence.”

To visit the Hidden Marks website click here.

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