Sexual harassment: Students reveal their disturbing stories following Sarah Everard’s death

NTU students have recounted experiences of harassment and intimidation following an explosion in awareness of the everyday dangers women face after the disappearance of Sarah Everard in South London.

The 33-year-old marketing executive disappeared on her way home from a friend’s house in Clapham on March 3.

A 48-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of kidnap and murder.

Platform issued an appeal on social media asking NTU students to recount their experiences in order to raise awareness on the issue.

Victims of sexual offences are provided lifetime anonymity thanks to the Sexual Offences Act. This anonymity for victims is provided regardless of whether a conviction is made or not and can only be lifted in certain circumstances.

“Some boys are d***heads like that and that it’s not fair.”  

One respondent told of how she was groped in Nottingham’s Ocean nightclub.

“I remember dancing with a boy. He kept reaching down between my legs and I kept pushing away but he kept going back.

“Then he reached under my top and bra and I just remember feeling so uncomfortable.

“The next day I thought it felt weird, but my friend said that something had happened to her before and that some boys are d***heads like that and that it’s not fair.”  

“Then I realised he was touching himself – so I shouted at him to stop and swung the door open despite him still driving”

A different student recalls losing their friends on the way to NG1 “and my phone had died”.

“I decided to get a taxi home and text them when I got in.

“Overall, I’d say I’m a really sensible confident girl so I didn’t think twice about getting into a taxi on my own.

“I told [the driver] I only had a tenner but he said that was fine.

“He claimed he had a problem with his back wheel and said he needed to stop, but meanwhile I was calling a sober friend.

“This taxi driver actually took off his trousers instead of checking his tire.

“He got back into the driver’s seat, drove past my halls – then I realised he was touching himself.

“So I shouted at him to stop and swung the door open despite him still driving.

“Thankfully he stopped and I climbed out okay, but he grabbed my bum on the way out and said he’d miss me.

“Things like this do happen and I want to help raise more awareness about it.”

“I woke up to a boy trying to take my clothes off and kissing me, with the door locked”

Another student recounts an experience at a house party when she “decided to go into a separate room and sleep off being too drunk”.

“I woke up to a boy trying to take my clothes off and kissing me, with the door locked.

“Luckily, I managed to get out before it got worse, but this was four years ago and still affects me awfully when it comes to trusting men with my body or going anywhere alone.

“I’ve never spoken about my story, but I thought why not if not now.”

“I know so many girls who have experienced milder forms of sexual harassment which are normalised in society like bum slapping, boob grabbing and more.

“Objectifying us – it really isn’t ok.”

“I kid you not, the middle-aged white man has his d*** out and decides to start masturbating right in front of me”

As recent as three weeks ago, another student “was walking home at 9pm from work and I hear someone say ‘excuse me miss’ repeatedly.”

“I ignored it mostly.

“But eventually I do turn around and, I kid you not, the middle-aged white man has his dick out and decides to start masturbating right in front of me.

“He kinda tried to reach for me but I just took off towards the university building as I was really close to it.

“If he’s not afraid to just do that I’m scared he might go further so I hope any girls walking home late keep an eye out for men like that.”

This occurred “just around the corner from Gill Street”.

“I have never sat outside a café or restaurant on my own since”  

Also on a public street, but in “broad daylight sat at the outside seating on my own at a coffee shop in the City Centre in 2018”, a student remembers “a male stranger” suddenly sitting closely next to her and starting a conversation.

“I was uncomfortable but I was being polite, hoping he’d leave me alone.

“He then began asking very personal questions.

“’Do you have a boyfriend?’ and ‘is he good in bed?’

“I was frozen – I couldn’t believe what was happening.

“The he reached out and touched the top of my thigh making more inappropriate comments.

“I was able to leave the table and hurriedly rushed over to the train station in tears.

“I have never sat outside a café or restaurant on my own since.”

“He only left once he was dragged out”

Not all incidents are this sporadic, another student suffering particularly prolonged harassment.

“He started off by saying weird comments to me in freshers which hasn’t stopped.

“He would hit me on the bum repeatedly and stroke my leg and grope me in front of all our mutual guy friends who wouldn’t say anything.

“This later escalated – he ended up forcing himself on me in my bedroom, repeatedly saying how he wanted to have sex with me.

“He did not take no for an answer and took all his clothes off apart from his trousers and got into my bed and refused to leave.

“He only left once he was dragged out.

“He still sends me creepy messages from my housemate’s phone when he’s drunk.

A different student states that she finds it ‘confusing’ how people continue to be friends with a boy who sexually harassed her a few years ago.

“We were about 15, 16 years old when he stopped me in the middle of this field and like started to feel me up trying to force his hands down my jeans.

“He’d managed to unzip them even though I was pushing him off.

“I started shouting and then the other two that we were walking with caught up… so he stopped, thank goodness.”

“He is still friends with all of my home friends, whenever we meet up he is there and we both act like nothing ever happened.”

According to a survey by YouGov, 97 per cent of women aged 18-24 said that they have been sexually harassed.

80% of all women said that they had experienced sexual harassment in public places.

The U.K. recorded approximately 62,200 incidences of rape in 2019-20, the overwhelming majority of these against women.

British Crime Surveys show that at least 1 in 4 women experience rape or serious sexual assault, compared to 1 in 30 men, during their lives. 

“’I thought you were fun’, he said. ‘A naughty girl’”

An NTU student has told Platform of how she “couldn’t sleep all night because I was in bed with my rapist”.

“It was on my 20th birthday… I was wearing a black dress and I felt beautiful. All my friends left except from him”

“He started kissing me… I told him I’m not interested. I guess I was too drunk to react”

“He called a taxi and got in with me”

“I told him I was not interested, again – but he didn’t seem to care”

“He whispered ‘I know you’re playing hard to get and that turns me on’”.

“I didn’t want to make a scene. I just didn’t know what to do”

“When we arrived I told him I do not want to have sex with him. He pushed me, and then took my clothes off. I begged him to leave me alone.”

“’I thought you were fun’, he said. ‘A naughty girl’”

“He raped me anyway.”

“In the morning he told me to take the morning after pill and said ‘Wow, we were both quite drunk last night’”.

Following Ms Everard’s death, women have rallied against daily unjustified dangers as ‘Reclaim the Street’ vigils have been organised in London, Cambridge, Birmingham, Brighton, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds and many more locations across the U.K.

Women have also been appealing to men to empathise and amend their behaviour.

Positive changes can include keeping a comfortable distance or crossing the road, offering to walk friends home, intervening when you see something wrong, and talking to other men.    

VP Community and Welfare Zoe Mallet said: “The tragic killing of Sarah Everard has left many of our students feeling angry, I share these feelings and cannot imagine the pain and suffering that those close to her must be going through.

“Our independent Information and Advice Service is there to offer support for any of our members following these or other events and experiences.

“We have been working on the topic of sexual harassment, violence, and consent for a number of years however we know there is still so much more to be done.

“We will continue to work with student groups, the university, local and national organisations such as the Consent Coalition and the Sexual Violence Action Network to ensure students feel safe and supported. I urge students to response to the governments consultation.

“At present we provide peer led training for students, including committee members of societies, in sexual violence and consent.

“We are pleased to be one of the first universities in the UK to be introducing mandatory consent workshops for all students enrolling at NTU, starting in September 2021.

“NTSU have also piloted a new Bystander Intervention Workshop this year that educates students on how to safely intervene in situations whether that be sexual harassment or a hate crime.

“In our own spaces we have initiated several local and national interventions to help keep students and staff safe, we will be reviewing and relaunching these when they are able to open again.

“In my role as VP Community and Welfare, I want to work with local authorities and partners to help our streets feel safe for women. There is much more work to be done and I encourage any students with ideas or concerns to get in touch with me.”

By Adam Toms, Irene Bisoni, Rucsandra Moldoveanu, Matthew Lee

Lead image: Karima Morsli, Platform

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