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Oxford launches study to understand sexual harassment and violence at the University

Charlie Hancock reports on a new study seeking to shed light on sexual harassment at Oxford University.

CW: Mentions of sexual assault and rape

Academics at the Oxford University Department of Social Policy and Intervention have launched a new study to understand sexual harassment and violence at the University.

The OUR SPACE study (Oxford Understanding Relationships, Sex, Power, Abuse, and Consent Experiences) is the first study of its kind to be conducted in the United Kingdom. Every student currently enrolled at the University will receive a confidential and anonymous survey and consent form on May 11th. The survey will record and measure their “attitudes towards and experiences of sexual harassment and violence”.

The results will be used to “build academic understanding” of sexual harassment and violence at the University, and inform their policies and support services in the future.

The study comes after Oxford University was mentioned at least 57 times on Everyone’s Invited, a website which collects anonymous testimonies of sexual violence and ‘rape culture’. Over 15,000 testimonies have so far been published on the platform.

The survey was developed with the Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service. A recent report found that demand for the service rose by 12% in 2019-20 compared to the previous year.

Director of Student Welfare Services, Gillian Hamnett,said: “Sexual harassment and violence is never acceptable at the University and we are committed to tackling this issue. This is an important study that will help us to gain a better understanding of the complex set of issues, and will help us to further develop our support for students.”

The study has been given ethical approval by the University, and endorsed by the SU and It Happens Here campaign.

Alex Foley, VP Women for Oxford SU stated “Gendered violence is a problem that cuts across society, affecting people from all walks of life, including students at Oxford. The OUR SPACE survey has the potential to be a wonderful tool in the fight against this scourge that will provide us with unique insights on its prevalence at the University”.

Timea Iliffe and Natasha Lovel, co-chairs of It Happens Here said: “We are delighted that this study is taking place and look forward to the insightful and deeply necessary information this piece of research will hopefully provide. We’d also encourage students to participate if they can, and help us build a more accurate picture of what continues to be a pervasive issue on university campuses”.

The Oxford University Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service can be reached by emailing [email protected] and offers free support and advice to any student at the University who has been impacted by sexual harassment or violence.

OSARCC is also available as a free support service which is distinct from the University.

It Happens Here can serve as an unofficial and informal point of contact for students with any concerns about the issues discussed in this article. 

Image Credit: Billy Wilson / CC BY-NC 2.0

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