Sex pests epidemic targeting female students

Nightclubs are seen as being troublesome. Picture: Robert Perry
Nightclubs are seen as being troublesome. Picture: Robert Perry
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AS MANY as a third of students in the Capital have been victims of sexual harassment during their time at university, according to a major new survey.

Provisional findings from a probe by leaders at Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) suggest around one in three male and female students have been subjected to some form of harassment – defined as “unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature”.

City nightclubs have been identified as harassment blackspots and it is understood EUSA leaders will now work with owners in an attempt to drive down the number of incidents. Nadia Mehdi, EUSA vice-president for societies and activities, who also has responsibility for welfare, said: “Following high-profile studies by organisations such as the National Union of Students, we wanted to ­determine the local picture and find out more about students’ experiences of sexual harassment in Edinburgh.

“We’ll launch a campaign in the new year once the data has been analysed.

“We’re keen to ensure ­students know their rights and how to report incidents of ­sexual harassment.

“We’ll also be working with other local organisations to put together a plan to reduce the number of students having negative experiences.”

The EUSA survey – in which 781 students took part – adds to growing recent evidence that ­sexual harassment in the ­Capital has reached epidemic proportions, with a study released earlier this year indicating that girls as young as 12 were being targeted by the city’s sex pests.

Jacq Kelly, chair of campaign group Hollaback Edinburgh, which carried out the study, said the EUSA findings came as no surprise and that ­major work would be needed to change attitudes.

“This survey serves as a further reminder that we have an incredible amount of work to do to address the underlying misogyny that drives sexist and abusive behaviour,” she said.

“Sexual harassment is often dismissed as banter.

“However, many of the young people who have spoken to us about their experiences of being harassed in public spaces have told us just how intimidating and frightening it is.

“In addition, increased reports that more women are experiencing ‘underhanding’ – nothing short of sexual assault – in nightclubs demonstrates the urgency with which we need to address this problem.”