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The Last Taboo releases report on University's sexual assault handling

CONTENT WARNING: The report covers the support given to victims of sexual assault and violence by the University

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Image Credit: The Last Taboo

Today, 10 April, the Last Taboo released their University of York Overview Report relating to sexual violence at the University and the effectiveness of the University’s handling of sexual violence.

The report includes what the University is already doing and recommendations made by the Last Taboo on how the University can improve. Consultation with students on their experiences reporting sexual violence at the University have also been included to create a wider picture of student experience with sexual assault at the University.

The University already has services such as two Sexual Violence Liasion Officers and the Report and Support scheme. It has also updated Regulation 7 to give the University a broader scope to ensure safety of students. Nouse’s coverage of the updated Regulation 7 can be read here.

The report has been under construction since November 2020 with 419 in total students participating. It states that “we understand concerns that our data may be biased as students who have something to say on the matter of sexual violence may be more likely to complete our consultations. But the fact this data exists should be enough to consider this report on its own.”

144 students participated in the main consultation which focused on student awareness of help available to victims of sexual violence. The main findings were that while some students had had positive experiences of gaining support from the University, many felt guilty for reporting or felt that their concerns were not taken seriously. A high percentage of students do not know how to access support with 43% not knowing what campus security does and 84% being unaware of Regulation 7. However, 91% of students feel the University has a duty to educate students on sexual assault and harassment.

Alongside quantitative data, the report includes various damning statements made by consulted students. For example, one student is quoted to say that the "University disciplinary action took months and during this time I was still having to live
with the perpetrator, the Uni did very little to help me." Another suggested that "they don’t take sexual assault seriously, their primary objective is to cover their backs and avoid bad press."

The Last Taboo also conducted separate consultations for women, men, LGBTQ+ students, working class students, disabled students and BAME students. While these consultations had less participants, they focused on specific challenges faced by these minority groups. The data collected on these specific areas are as follows:

The Women’s Consultation:

  • 69 participants
  • 75% of those participating have been sexually harassed
  • 71% said they would not feel comfortable reporting sexual harassment
  • 78% of women have been directly affected by lad culture.
  • Focus on how women are made to feel guilty for reporting as though they were “asking for it”

The Men’s Consultation:

  • 55 participants
  • Only  22% of those identifying as men said they’d been affected by lad culture.
  • Focus on how men are often made to feel as though they cannot be seen as victims of sexual violence due to their gender.

The LGBTQ+ Consultation:

  • 44 participants
  • LGBTQ+ students felt their experiences of sexual assault and harassment may not be taken seriously due to the “hypersexual stereotype the community face and a general lack of pre-exisiting education around consent due to education’s focus on heteronormative relationships”.
  • One participant said that “the only thing I heard about LGBTQ+ sexual assault while here has been through the consent course we did, but that was just using two “female” or “male” names surrounding consent.”

The Working Class Consultation:

  • 22 participants
  • Focused on how working class students may be more vulnerable to sexual assault.
  • One participant stated that  “I have found that those who had experienced sexual assault and are from richer backgrounds have lawyers in their families which helped them with the reporting and legal processes, it also meant that their families had a wider understanding of the issue and were more supportive. I also have friends from richer families who have been able to access private therapy as soon as they wanted it, whereas I have been put on waiting lists for support. "

The BAME consultation:

  • 23 participants
  • Focused on how BAME students may be more vulnerable, particularly as BAME students may struggle to “trust institutions because of the lack of transparency”

The Disabled student consultation:

  • 14 participants
  • Expressed the unique struggles of disabled students in terms of sexual assault  with statements such as "I think sex therapy contacts should be available for those who don’t understand whether they have experienced assault or harassment but their experiences have made them frightened of sex and relationships"

In light of these consultations, the Last Taboo has worked with these students to suggest over 50 recommendations to the University. These recommendations mainly focus around how to improve student awareness of University support such as consistent advertising and regularly explaining the focus of campus security. The University should also look into having a male Sexual Violence Liasion Officer and an Officer specialising in BAME and LGBTQ+ students.

Overall, the message of the report is that  “Whilst the University of York is by no means the worst University for handling sexual violence, the report clearly suggests that students feel that changes need to be made to improve the situation at the University”

Nouse asked the University for comment and their spokesperson stated that: “We welcome the report, which is being presented to our Student Life Committee next week for consideration."

They continued by adding that: "The University takes the issue of sexual violence and harassment extremely seriously, but it would be inappropriate to comment in detail until colleagues have had an opportunity to read the report in full and consider its findings.

“We have a number of measures in place already to support students, including our Sexual Violence Liaison Offers, who offer one-to-one practical and emotional support, and advice about internal and external support services.

For more information, read the reports yourself, or find out how to support the Last Taboo, follow the link here to The Last Taboo’s website.

If you have been affected by the issues within this article, or have concerns about sexual violence visit or call Rape Crisis on: 0808 802 9999.

Links to support:

Report and Support tool:

Employee support from the University:

Student support from the University:

Visit the Rape Crisis website at:

Or call Rape Crisis on: 0808 802 9999

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