Ruth Akinradewo is an Ambassador with Press Red and a social justice activist. Press Red is a Christian charity that works to equip, empower and educate people to tackle issues of gender-based violence.
It wasn’t that long ago I was a student myself: just a little over two years ago now.
The scene hasn’t much changed.
When I was at uni, one of the big problems facing us was sexual harassment. It became such a big issue at my Oxford college that our principal wrote an article for The Guardian and spoke to Radio 4 about the prevalence of “laddish culture” and the hugely detrimental effect it was having on many lives at college.
Sexual harassment is still rife across our campuses.
Where I studied, there were many rumours going around of “pimps” who procured young and vulnerable girls right at the start of freshers’ week and continued to prey on them further into their first years at university; priming them by getting them drunk.
Stories of sexual harassment and abuse on campus may not always be as vicious-sounding as that.
They may be stories that your friends share about being possessively touched in a private place - as though that spot on their bodies were for the taking. They may be stories of being addressed in a demeaning and sexually objectifying way – by their coursemates, or even tutors.
In the last few months, sexual harassment at university has really come into the light. Early last year, the shocking case of the Warwick University “rape chat” mounted to national headlines. The eleven members of this online chat unashamedly “joked” about sexually assaulting and raping females in their friendship group, as well as new freshers. More recently, Cambridge University professor Peter Hutchinson was “permanently removed” from his post after a number of female students complained about him making sexist and sexualised comments – only to be reinstated less than two years later.
The BBC found this year that over the previous 12 months, UK universities received over 700 allegations of sexual misconduct. Channel 4 documents an 82% increase in reported incidents of rape and sexual assault on campus over the same period.
There needs to be a shift in thinking for the tide to truly turn.
We can make a start by striking out behavioural patterns which focus on female sexuality, and writing in the female’s right to dignity.
If you want to find out more about what you can do to PRESS RED on gender-based violence, head to Press Red’s website.