No means No: Bristol SU launches research into consent culture and sexual harassment at the University of Bristol

‘Consent’ will be a familiar term for most, if not all, readers.  Campaigns against sexual violence have emphasised the necessity of asking a sexual partner for consent at all stages of a sexual experience, whilst also understanding that consent can only be given by someone who has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.   

 

Such campaigns have also worked to emphasise the necessity of respecting an individual’s consensual decision.  The phrase ‘No means No’ has been utilised to encourage an understanding of an individual’s choice as final, not up for debate or persuasion. 

 

As a result of such efforts, emphasis has been placed on encouraging a healthy, respectful culture of consent.  Whether in the workplace, a nightclub or university campus, a healthy culture of consent will develop when respecting each other’s personal and emotional boundaries becomes the norm.

 

Unfortunately, consistently striking findings regarding prevalence rates of sexual harassment and violence within UK universities imply that there is a long way to go in securing a working culture of consent on our campuses. 

 

In 2018, Revolt Sexual Assault in partnership with The Student Room found that 62% of UK university students and graduates have experienced sexual violence.   This stark statistic was unfortunately reflected in Bristol SU’s 2018 Let’s Talk About Sex survey, which found that 52% University of Bristol students had experienced sexual harassment at university.

 

In response to such findings, Bristol SU have launched a survey to begin a research project into consent culture and sexual harassment at the University of Bristol.   This research has been commissioned by current Equality, Liberation and Access Officer Jason Palmer who has listed violence and harassment reporting and support as one of his main priorities for this academic year. 

 

The new research aims to aid in: 

  • Understanding consent culture on campus.
  • Improving the wellbeing support available to students who have experienced sexual violence.
  • Informing the university’s approach to sex and consent education at Bristol.

 

Importantly, according to Jason Palmer, Bristol SU’s Equality, Liberation and Access Officer, “this research aims to centre the voices of those who have experienced sexual misconduct, to build a strong culture of consent and make sure the University of Bristol is providing adequate reporting avenues and support for victims.” 

 

Research of this type is absolutely integral in ensuring equality on UK campuses.  It has been found that exposure to sexual harassment in higher education results in detrimental psychological, physical and professional consequences for affected individuals.  Health, motivation and dropout rates are all negatively impacted by the experience of sexual harassment or violence

 

As such, it is of the utmost importance that UK universities work tackle sexual violence efficiently and quickly.

 

The first phase of the University of Bristol research has began, and the anonymous survey can be filled in online at: bristolsu.org.uk/consentsurvey.

 

A report of the findings will be shared on the Bristol SU website following completion of the research. The findings will also be shared with the University, such as the University of Bristol's Student Experience Committee and the Joint Forum Against Sexual Violence and Harassment, which includes members of staff from UWE, UoB, Bath Spa and the University of Bath.  

 

If you have had experience of sexual harassment or violence and need support then you can reach out to the following services: 

  •  The Bridge can provide guidance on ways of reporting rape or sexual assault https://www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk/ 
  • At the University a Student Services Officer can help you to identify the options available to you with regards to reporting an incident of harassment or assault. https://reportandsupport.bristol.ac.uk/ 
  • For help and guidance around sexual violence and abuse please contact: Somerset & Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support: Women & Girls 0808 801 0456, Men & Boys 0808 801 0464 
  • If you wish to access support you may find the Bristol Survivor Pathway helpful, which can direct you to appropriate services in the Bristol area: https://www.survivorpathway.org.uk/bristol/