About Hidden Marks

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Hidden Marks is the first ever nationwide report into women students’ experience of harassment, stalking, violence and sexual assault. The report documents the findings of a survey carried out by the National Union of Students exploring the prevalence and nature of violence against women students. The UK-wide study provides a snapshot of the experiences of women students today. It includes information about how likely women students are to experience harassment and violence, the extent to which they report these crimes, and to whom, the profile of offenders, and the impact of such incidences on women students’ health, relationships and education.

The study covers full-time and part-time students in both further and higher 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.

Key findings:

  • 1 in 7 survey respondents has experienced a serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student;
  • 12% have been stalked while at university or college;

  • 68% of respondents have been a victim of one or more kinds of sexual harassment on campus during their time as a student;

  • 16% of respondents have experienced unwanted kissing, touching or molesting during their time as a student;

  • More than 1 in 10 has been a victim of serious physical violence;

  • Students were the majority of perpetrators in most categories (except physical violence where 48% of offenders were students);
  • In the majority of cases in all incident categories surveyed, the perpetrator was known to the victim;

  • In the incident categories for which relevant data is available, the majority of perpetrators were male (89% for stalking and 73% for physical violence)

  • Only 4% of women students who have been seriously sexually assaulted have reported it to their institution;

  • Only 10% of women students who have been seriously sexually assaulted have reported it to the police;

  • Of those who did not report serious sexual assault to the police, 50% said it was because they felt ashamed or embarrassed, and 43% because thought 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.

“Women students can be left feeling like they are to blame for the violence committed against them. Clearly, not enough is being done to encourage women students to report all instances of assault or harassment to their institutions or to the police.

“This report is a wake-up call. Universities and colleges must work more closely with local police, victim support services and health services in order to give victims the security and confidence to come forward. Institutions must also deal with all reported instances of assault or harassment with the utmost seriousness, so that no students are left in any doubt that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Sandra Horley OBE, 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.”

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