Belfast Telegraph

Many female students suffer assault

One in seven female students has been the victim of a serious sexual or physical assault, a damning report has found.

But few report incidents to the police, with up to half of those suffering sexual assaults saying they felt ashamed or embarrassed, while more than four in 10 said they thought they would be blamed.

The Hidden Marks study, by the National Union of Students (NUS), reveals the scale of violence, harassment and stalking experienced by women students, and the concerns some have for their safety.

It is based on a poll of more than 2,000 current female students in the UK. The findings show that 14% have been the victim of either a serious sexual assault or serious physical violence, or both.

Separately, some 7% have been seriously sexually assaulted, while 11% have been subjected to a serious physical assault. One in four has faced a sexual assault of any kind. The report claims that as national data suggests 23% of women experience a sexual assault, there is an indication of a "heightened risk of being affected by this whilst a student".

Of those that have faced sexual assault, 5% said they had been raped, while 2% were the victim of an attempted rape. One in ten victims of serious sexual assault was given alcohol or drugs against their will.

Of the one in five (21%) who said they had been the victim of physical violence of any kind, almost one in ten (9%) said they had been choked, dragged, strangled or burnt, while 3% had been threatened with a weapon.

More than a third (38%) had been pushed, slapped, shoved or had their hair pulled. But the poll reveals that only 4% of female students who have been seriously sexually assaulted report it to their university, and only one in 10 (10%) told the police. Half (50%) said they felt ashamed or embarrassed, while 43% thought that if they went to the police they would be blamed for what happened.

NUS women's officer Olivia Bailey said: "It is extremely disturbing that so many women students are assaulted and harassed while at university or college, and it is particularly worrying that the perpetrators in many of these cases are fellow students."

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