Sexual Intimidation, Harassment and Assault in Higher Education

Trigger Warning: This blog post contains discussions and depictions of sexual violence.

The 25th of November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This year, the Student Center for Diversity, Advocacy and Inclusion has partnered up with Let’s Talk about Sex Groningen in order to shed some light on the severity of this issue especially among students.

According to a report by Rutgers, due to lockdown measures such as the curfew, “young people especially were obligated to spend the night more often, even if they actually didn’t want to”. This has reportedly led to an increase in sexual violence, as it more often happens among acquaintances and partners.

SCDAI and LTAS asked their audiences and student communities to share their stories, and in doing so, try to encourage change towards the elimination against (sexual) violence against women, and sexual violence in general. The following stories are sent anonymously.

These stories have been edited only in the form of correcting spelling and grammatical errors*

A male roommate at the SSH housing unit I was in (negotiated by the university) would bring a friend over and routinely peek at the women showering on the next stall. I asked the program coordinator at my faculty to demand SSH make the stall walls higher so no one can stand on top of a toilet and look, they said that would impact prices. I then asked they give a mandatory talk on sexual harassment, and he said definitely not -it was obvious, to my eyes, that it would be due to perception that one faculty suddenly required its students to receive such a talk. So he would rather this problem heavily impact me if it means never "tarnishing" his career). Then he proposed this is raised during a student meeting, in which many students - also females- adamantly decried the proposition and shut it down. Nothing was done since I had no proof. I left the faculty for this and widespread racism and xenophobia. He left because he could not handle the academic workload.

Nothing at all was done. Nothing at all changed.

During a workshop project specifically designed to discuss female student representation in the classroom, three of my male classmates would routinely interrupt the women and try to get their inane points across. When I pointed this out, they calmed down, but one surreptitiously started walking behind me and ever so slightly grazing my backside every time he did. I had to turn and ask for my personal space. The teacher was looking right at me. He sat on the next table and observed, never participating.

It's happened so many times that it's hard to choose just three stories. As a child, I was exposed to inappropriate sexual situations. I was molested more than once and made to feel ashamed for it by the people who were supposed to take care of me. When my mother walked in on me being molested she dragged me out and called me a wh*re, I was only 9 years old. When I was 15, I was drugged and woke up to somebody r*ping and recording me and was so inebriated that I couldn't even call for help.

Unfortunately this has happened multiple times. I get harassed on the street so much that I honestly expect it whenever i leave the house. When I first moved to Groningen somebody tried to pick me up off the street to "take me for himself", he was physically blocking me and assaulting me to the point where people were jumping out of their cars to help and he eventually got beaten up by multiple men and I had to get the police involved. I'm still traumatized from that. My ex would physically hurt me (threw me against a table until I bled and would force me to keep having sex with him while I was screaming in pain) and then would apologize after and I always forgave him. I've honestly been hurt by so many men so many times that it feels like it's my fault. I've never told anybody about this but I hope my story can help someone else.

The sexual harassment is indeed a grey area. Although the most cliché is when teenage girls get sexual harassed on the streets; it also happens to men, older people, and children. The latter is something I have experienced. I was only 10 years old, with no knowledge about anything related to sex, especially not harassment. Things happened, and only after 3 years I realized this wasn't normal. However, they don't teach you anything in school about these things happening. For everyone it is a different (terrible and traumatic) experience.

I think we should emphasize more on this topic in education. If you haven't experienced this, you will never know how it feels. How it feels to live in fear to see this person again or that is will happen to you again. How it feels to not know what is going on. How it feels to freeze and not be able to scream. How it feels to keep it a secret to the world. After 3 years I opened up to my best friend, who told her parents, who then told my parents. That's how my parents got to know it. It is very hard to tell to people. You feel disgusted, and you feel shame. Until the time my parents got to know it, they always got angry at me when I was denying to go to this person's birthday party's, or sleeping with this person in the same room on vacations. After I told them, they understood why I was always making a drama out of it.

Sometimes you can see it from the person that they've experienced something traumatic, but some can hide it very deeply. Unfortunately, it wouldn't change the experience and the hurt you will have for the rest of your life. Cause this experience has impact on not only my sex life, but also on my daily life. And that will never go away.

I was casually hooking up with this guy for about 3 months and during this time he verbally abused me multiple times. He told me how he wanted to fuck my friends and my mum right after we would be done having sex.

The last time I saw him, he kept asking to take off the condom to which I repeatedly replied with "no" and when he finished I asked where the condom went and he told me he took it off despite me saying no. It took me months to realize that that was sexual assault and it took even longer for me to reach out for help in the form of therapy.

It has been almost 2 years since it happened, I was a first year at the RUG & I still cannot stop thinking about it. It absolutely broke my heart. The study advisors told me the only thing I can do is ask the board of examiners to get an exemption for my BSA as I started failing all my courses because of it, other than that they didn’t really care.

A barkeeper who I knew through mutual friends got me really, really drunk. We were both drunk when we started having sex. After a while, he just started having anal sex with me without my consent, I was too drunk to even notice and I passed out right after. The last thing I remember was him just leaving me on the bed. The next day I woke up with pain in that area and I could barely remember much of the previous night. I felt really bad about the night and I could never figure out why until I told some people and they were horrified at what happened.

To all students, continue to share your story. To do so anonymously please go here.

We are left once again asking our institutions to take sexual violence seriously. Sitting in the same classroom as one’s predator, or being graded by one, is real and impedes countless students’ life - within and outside of university. The effects of sexual violence can last a lifetime, and its survivors need justice. But before that, we need public domains, especially higher education institutions, to put in place serious measures which enable the following:

  • Coming forward/reporting;
  • Receiving immediate psychological and physical health;
  • Receiving support in the aftermath of sexual harassment;
  • Outlining punishments and expulsions for perpetrators;
  • Providing safe and/or anonymous ways for survivors to handle the process of the aftermath of sexual assault;
  • Equipping teachers and staff to use sensitive and appropriate language which is not based in r*pe culture, as well as providing students with necessary information/resources in recovering and obtaining justice.

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