Social Justice

Female students are still avoiding nights out for fear of sexual assault

Weeks after concerning reports of drinks being spiked, more than half of female students are scared to go out.

drink spiking

People dancing in a nightclub. Image: Pim Myten/Unsplash

Months on from the horrific killings of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard, and a number of weeks since the gruesome spectre of drugged drinks made headlines, over half of female students still say they avoid nights out for fear of sexual violence and harassment.

Amid a national push to end violence against women and girls, more than 1,300 students – more than 80 per cent female – responded to a survey by youth news site The Tab and campaign group Our Streets Now. 

And just one in 20 say they would report a sexual assault to their university – despite a quarter having experienced it themselves.

In the wake of students boycotting nightclubs around the country in October after widespread reports of drink spiking, one in five students said they’d been spiked on a night out in the survey, and nine in 10 said they worried about it happening to them.

Writing for The Big Issue, Girls Night In co-founder Joscelin Story said young women “have been expected to be the sole arbiter of their own safety. Girls who are just looking for a night out are told to cover their drinks and not take their eyes off of their friends.”

This week, the Law Commission has recommended that public sexual harassment be made a crime. But eight out of 10 students said they did not currently know where to report this, or sexual assault, to their university.

Sexual assault reports at universities have more than doubled in the past four years, with over 3,500 incidents reported since 2015.

“It’s really disappointing, yet unsurprising to see how just many students feel they cannot trust their institutions to support them with sexual assault complaints,”  Lydia Venn, The Tab UK’s features editor, said.

“Time and time again universities claim to have made big changes to protect their students and yet this is clearly not being felt by the students.”

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