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Sexual Harassment and Violence

Stop violence

Sexual violence [1] is unfortunately highly prevalent in society. Statistics estimate that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men will have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult, and that 1 in 6 children have been sexually abused [2].

It is also estimated that 56% of students have experienced unwanted sexual behaviours at university [3]; as such, you might be worried about supporting someone who discloses that they have experienced rape or another form of sexual violence.

An experience of sexual violence is likely to have long-lasting effects on a victim/survivor. It’s really important to remember that everyone responds differently to sexual violence and abuse, so whatever someone feels is a valid response - there is no right or wrong way to be or to feel. Survivors may display difficult emotions and trauma-related issues, such as anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress-disorder), flashbacks and nightmares. They might come across as numb or angry, and display feelings of guilt and shame, among other things. Some of the impacts might last a few days, while others might last for years ­­­­– or only appear sometime later.

Supporting a survivor of sexual violence can sometimes feel daunting; you might be worried about saying or doing ‘the wrong thing’. But being there, listening and believing is the most important thing. And then let survivors tell you what they need.

Below are some helpful pointers of what you can do to support survivors:

  • Listen
  • Tell them you believe them
  • Let them know it wasn’t their fault
  • Recognise how hard it must have been for them to tell you
  • Let them stay in control – it’s really important to not make decisions for survivors, as sexual violence of any kind can make someone feel powerless or like they’ve lost control
  • Respect their decisions
  • Be patient and respect their boundaries

And here are some things you should avoid saying/doing:

  • Don’t ask why they haven’t reported it sooner
  • Don’t judge them for anything they did before the sexual violence incident
  • Don’t ask them why they didn’t leave or fight back
  • Don’t judge they for how they’ve responded to the sexual violence incident

Support available

Queen Mary's Report and Support website offer information about local and national support services for survivors of sexual violence. There is also the option to make a report to the University, either anonymously or with contact details. 

You can make a referral to Queen Mary’s Sexual Assault and Harassment Adviser with the student’s consent. They’ll be able to advise on options and provide both practical and emotional support.

For advice about staying safe at Queen Mary, see the Queen Mary Guide to Personal Safety. There is a Security Team at Queen Mary who are responsible for maintaining safety and security on campuses. You can find out more about what they do and how to contact them on the Security website.

Queen Mary staff who are worried about a student should read and follow the Students in Urgent Situations Guide.

Caring for yourself

Supporting a victim/survivor can be really hard and you might find it impacts your life and wellbeing too. Remember that it’s okay to take time and space for yourself and practice self-care. Seek support from a line manager or a colleague.

Remember you can also access Queen Mary’s Employee Assistance Programme.

[1] ‘Sexual violence’ means any sexual activity or act that happened without consent. It includes rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

[2] Rape Crisis England & Wales.


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