With the developments in Westminster and the accusations about Kevin Spacey coming to the surface this week, the impact of the Harvey Weinstein case and the #meetoo movement are still being felt. What is clear is that no place is free from sexual harassment, including university life.
Statistics show that women comprise of over 55% of the undergraduate intake; yet many women have a less than pleasant experience, with the more enjoyable aspects marred by issues of discrimination and sexual harassment. Students have previously been reluctant to speak of such experiences, fearing that they may be ostracized or face victim blaming. However, now more women are speaking out and it is important to recognise that students face these struggles in their day-to -day lives.
Drawing on my own experience and the experience of my friends, we have already come across numerous uncomfortable situations, simply because we are female. One of my friends avoids the tube during rush hour, for fear of being touched inappropriately in a cramped area. Another finds walking home alone terrifying, especially in certain areas and when it is dark. Nearly all of us have sacrificed going to socials or events we were interested in, due to fear of walking alone at night. This is absurd in 2017. Women should not be are prevented from enjoying their social lives for fear of being assaulted.
Nights out are an intrinsic part of the student experience. However, far from worrying about just makeup and picking a nice outfit, we are worried about our safety. Ensuring that we have a safe mode of transport to get to the club, and back, as many people have reported assaults from taxi drivers, or when walking alone at night. When in the club, we constantly have to check on our drinks, ensuring that they haven’t been spiked. When dancing, many of us have received unwanted attention, as boys feel entitled to our bodies, and touch us without consent. The countless number of times we have told boys that we have a boyfriend, as they respect another man more than our ability to say no. Losing our friends in a club would be calamitous, as we have no one to help defend ourselves, if we are assaulted, or receive unwanted attention.
University itself is not free from harassment; but here it seems to be more psychological than physical. During seminars and tutorials, there are many instances in which we feel that our views are discredited. We are spoken over and silenced by boys who feel that their voice is more important than ours. This has a negative impact on confidence and make us feel as if our opinions are not valid.
Thankfully, the vast majority of boys aren’t like this. It is the action of a few, making a significant number of girls uncomfortable going through their daily lives. Through movements like #metoo, women have been vocal about their experiences regarding assault and harassment, encouraging those who had previously hidden their experiences to speak out. Through raising awareness of such issues, the extent and the magnitude of such problems have been revealed, and action should be taken to prevent future generations from experiencing the harassment that women today have.