Do you remember your first girl’s night out? I know I do. I was 19 and ready to party after a week of coursework deadlines. I remember walking in the University club and making my way through the crowd. I remember suddenly feeling a hand on my wrist and looking up confused to see a lanky drunk graduate who then groped me and tried to pull me towards him. I remember the feeling the unshakeable fear as I tried to wrestle myself out of his clutch. Luckily, a friend nearby saw and intervened as I burst into tears into the corner. The harassment left me feeling shaken for days to come. Years’ later, feeling safe in my environment was still something I struggled with. It wasn’t the university experience I was guaranteed on my welcome pack.
We are students, not objects and we deserve to study and learn in peace.
This is just one story. I have heard, witnessed and cried over many more. Female and non-binary students across the UK face Public Sexual Harassment (PSH) every day. Our Streets Now reported that approximately 84% of students and alumni have experienced PSH, with over 38% experiencing this multiple times in a month. Whether navigating their student accommodation, University City or Higher Education institution, they fear being followed, shouted at, touched, groped or grabbed. That’s not where their nightmare stops. The impacts that follow such harassment range from negative mental wellbeing, embarrassment and limited self worth following from PSH.
72% of students didn’t know how to report or seek support services for [public sexual harassment] at their institutions.
It is clear that universities, such as Imperial College London, must take urgent action to tackle this problem. We believe that Higher Education institutions must enable the safety of all their students. Without this, our right to a free and equal education is being fundamentally denied. This must change. We are students, not objects and we deserve to study and learn in peace.
Our Streets Now is the nationwide campaign to end PSH started in 2019 by two sisters Maya and Gemma Tutton. On the 22nd of February 2021, Our Streets Now launched #StudentsNotObjects a campaign which works to raise awareness of the prevalence and impact of PSH on higher education students and demand action from institution. Our Streets Now Ambassadors for Imperial, Malinda Davies and I, will administer these in the current academic year.
This is solidified by survey findings, which highlight that 72% of students didn’t know how to report or seek support services for PSH at their institutions. As Ambassadors, Malinda and I have identified gaps within the Imperial Ecosystem, such as the lack of emphasis on consent in Sports Societies and non-existence of support systems for women within the campus after they have experienced PSH. Our aims in the upcoming year is to implement mandatory consent quizzes, work with transport providers and provide bystander training to reduce harassment on transport around the university and provide coping mechanisms and support such as self-defense classes around the campus alongside implementing the recommendations found in the OSN HE executive summary.
As students, we would call on you to raise awareness by sharing #studentsnotobjects on social media and gathering support by reaching out to us and get involved in the initiative. If anybody is struggling after experiencing PSH, please feel free to reach out to Malinda or I and we would be happy to help. Follow us on instagram @ourstreetsnow_imperial and check out the main Instagram for the campaign @ourstreetsnow