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Guest blog: Before there was #MeToo, there was #ItsRevolting

If the latest media attention has shown you anything, it’s that sexual assault and harassment is happening, everywhere. At university it has happened to me, it has happened to my friends and it’s happening at every higher education institution in the UK.

So why are report rates so low? One university’s response to our Freedom of Information Request revealed that they had just one incident of sexual assault on record in five years. University management, some of the country’s most intelligent and highly educated people, must be able to see that this is misrepresentative of reality.

In the U.K we pride ourselves on the fact that every student is entitled to a positive student experience, as well as a degree. But what happens if you’re sexually assaulted by another student?

Thanks to the Zellick report, U.K institutions have spent over two decades in compliance with the view that it is ‘out of the question’ for them to take internal action on reports of sexual violence committed against their students; their responsibility is to direct students to the police and nothing more. Since then, sexual assault and harassment have infected every aspect of university life.

While at university I experienced everything from harassment and ‘casual’ groping to rape, none of which I reported – and I am not alone. This is because the university bubble is unique: day in, day out, you study, socialise and live with your peers. Every area of your life overlaps with something or somebody, and the likelihood of bumping into a friend or foe, even in the most populous of universities, is extremely high. With no support or policy in place at my university, reporting it to a member of staff or the police felt out of the question.

Thanks to the Changing the Culture report, reform is something universities have begun to consider. But mere consideration does not beget the action that students deserve. Many institutions do not have one member of staff trained in sexual violence disclosures. There is limited to no advice provided on where a survivor can seek support from the university. The same policies, and disciplinary procedures, used for plagiarism are often applied to students reporting rape.

Revolt Sexual Assault is a national campaign I set up to expose the nature and extent of sexual violence at U.K universities. We collate raw, powerful and humanising video testimonials from across the country – where students can remain as anonymous as they wish. Far too many of the students we have listened to, even those who bravely reported their experiences to their university, were let down...

We found that there was no recent data to reflect our testimonials and demonstrate the scale of this epidemic. Therefore, in partnership with The Student Room, we launched the first national survey on this issue in a decade.