When we met at Hull University to study, we, the cofounders of Hollaback! Hull University (UK), soon realized that most students in Hull had an experience of street or sexual harassment to share. In their student experience, each and every seemed to have experienced or witnessed forms of sexual harassment on campus.
This seemed quite surprising to us – but also quite scary. Can no student enjoy her/his student experience without being exposed to sexual harassment?
I remember a conversation with a friend who has been studying in Hull for four years. I asked her if she thought sexual harassment was an issue for students here.
She immediately answered no. When I reiterated my question, asking her about sexual harassment in night clubs or bars, she said that for her, sexual harassment was something repetitive, coming from the same person. She would not call “what happens in night clubs” “sexual harassment” per se. I asked her what she meant by “what happens in night clubs”. It was like opening a Pandora box. She shared with me several stories: people blocking the way, trying to force a kiss, grabbing parts of bodies… to her or her friends.
This story was far from isolated. We heard many others. We wanted to know more. Figure out if it was really an issue or something we were interpreting from a context we did not know well. We wanted to do something about it, but first we needed some form of legitimacy.
In December 2013, we launched an online survey about experiences of sexual harassment among students of the University of Hull. We wanted to have a clearer idea of people’s experiences and perception of sexual harassment.
The results confirmed our initial feeling: sexual harassment is widespread but not recognized as such. While 16% of students said they already have experienced sexual harassment on campus, 43% of students said have been touched against their will at least once during their student experience.
When it comes to experiences on a night out (in a bar or a club for example), numbers were much higher. 20% of students said they have already been assaulted once when on a night out (access our full report here: http://hulluniversity.ihollaback.org/report).
This is where Hollaback! comes into play: revealing the dark figure of sexual harassment. With a team of students from England and abroad, with varied university backgrounds and experiences, we want to raise awareness about sexual harassment. Give victims, friends, bystanders a voice. Listen to their stories. Empower students. Give them tools to hollaback!
It’s a thin line between sexual harassment and sexual assault. We believe that answering someone who makes a comment about your body is sending a clear message to perpetrators that it is not acceptable to do it, or anything else without your consent.
Students, especially women (who suffer more than men from sexual harassment), have the right to have a harassment-free student experience in Hull. They deserve to study in a safe environment, to walk around campus freely or to go on a night out and have harmless fun.
We launched Hollaback! Hull University on 29 April 2014 and it was a success. Students were appalled by the results of the survey and interested to know more about sexual harassment and possibilities to end it.
We want students to speak out against sexual harassment. And we’ve got their back.
Visit us on hulluniversity.ihollaback.org !