Durham University has ranked sixth amongst UK universities for the number of testimonies relating to sexual violence, assault and harassment submitted to the site “Everyone’s Invited”.
There are currently 41 testimonies relating to Durham, ranking it between York (with 40) and UCL (with 48). Exeter University ranked the highest amongst the universities named by the site, with 65 testimonies relating to the University.
Durham Survivors, a group aimed at exposing the reality of sexual abuse in the Durham community, told Palatinate that they are “saddened but not surprised by the number of testimonies shared to Everyone’s Invited related to Durham University”. The group revealed that on their own platform, they have received over 140 anonymous submissions of sexual violence and misconduct related to the Durham community since the inception of Durham Survivors in July 2020.
Over 1,000 anonymous testimonies of sexual abuse were submitted to the Everyone’s Invited website in a single week after it published more than 13,000 testimonies detailing experiences of misogyny, sexual abuse, harassment and assault in schools. Across 1,035 reports, 86 UK universities were named.
“As Everyone’s Invited has emphasised from the outset, rape culture is everywhere including in all universities”, said its founder Soma Sara.
Commenting on the figures, the site’s organisers said: “We are encouraged that university students have found the confidence to come forward and share their testimonies.
“Many people find that the act of sharing their story helps them in many ways. For some it gives them a sense of catharsis, solidarity, empowerment, and hopefully it will help them begin to heal. From the testimonies it is clear that rape culture is endemic on university campuses across the UK. This is not just a school issue, it’s a cultural one.”
Durham Survivors said: “While we do not think that sexual violence is a problem which exists solely at Durham University, it is concerning to see how often Durham University is highly ranked among its peers in instances of sexual violence. To change this situation, we must simultaneously challenge the culture in which these incidents occur and create confidence in our reporting system, both at a university and a legal level.
“Recognising the problem and its prevalence is a first step in inciting this change, but we must actively and constantly work to address issues in our community and culture if we are to see a reduction in these incidents.
“Currently, the Durham Student’s Union is running Active Bystander Training sessions which aim to equip participants with the tools needed to recognise and intervene in incidents of sexual violence and harassment. We strongly encourage members of our community to take this course so that we can collectively challenge sexual violence in our community.”
A previous investigation by Palatinate found that almost 100 incidents of rape or attempted rape were disclosed to Durham University from 2014-2019. Despite dozens of reports of serious sexual misconduct – many of which constituted criminal offences – being made from 2014-19, Durham University expelled or excluded no more than 20 students following investigations.
The University announced in October that two students had been expelled, one of whom had committed a “serious breach” of the University’s Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy. Another student was expelled in February for breaching the Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy.
Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), said: “Durham University is a safe place to live, work and study, but we are determined to make it even more so.
“There is no place here for individuals who are found to have committed acts of sexual misconduct or violence.
“We have committed to our community that we will promptly investigate, take action and provide support when our students disclose or report instances of sexual misconduct or violence to us.
“This approach has seen an increase in cases reported to us, but we see this as our community growing in confidence that we will act appropriately in response to such reports; and we are resolved that it will not deter us from our commitment.”
Image: Mackem Magic via Flickr