Many students encounter sexual violence. A study commissioned by Amnesty International has shown that 11 percent of female students and 1 percent of male students are raped during their student days. The group which experiences non-consensual sex during their student days has grown considerably: 31 percent of women and 11 percent of the men. Since that study, Amnesty has been campaigning for higher education institutions to do more to tackle sexual violence.

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Far too many students experience sexual violence, says sociology student Nika Derwort who was present at the signing on behalf of Amnesty. “As a woman, I’ve heard stories about this from a lot of people, from students, from friends at other universities.”

By signing the manifesto, the university promises to work on tackling sexual violence among students. It contains specific points for improvement for prevention, victim support and policy. For example, through bystander training and by organising consent workshops for students, conducting awareness campaigns and reviewing complaint procedures.


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“Sexual violence is always unacceptable,” says rector magnificus Annelien Bredenoord. “We know that it happens a lot, also among our students. As a university, we must provide a safe environment. That is vital for students to be able to flourish and develop.”

The university did not sign the manifesto earlier because a plan was already being prepared to tackle sexual violence. That plan has now been finalised. Bredenoord: “It’s an integral approach to promote behavioural change.”

Action plan

The aim of the action plan is to help students talk about equality, voluntariness and mutual consent with respect to sex. For example, this year workshops and training sessions are being organised for students about subjects like bystanders, toxic masculinity and giving and requesting consent. There will also be an awareness campaign on campus and during Eureka week. Meanwhile, the university is also setting up a hotline where inappropriate behaviour can be reported.

The fact that there is an action plan gives Derwort hope. “Such a signature is obviously symbolic, but having a plan inspires confidence. If education institutions work towards this, that’s a good step to reduce sexual violence among students.”


It’s important to do more than organise hotlines and good procedures, she emphasises. “I’m not sure if I’d find it easy to go to a confidential counsellor.” She feels it’s about a culture change among students. “There can sometimes be quite a culture of going out, partying and drinking a lot.”

Some other education institutions, like the VU Amsterdam, Maastricht University and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences have also committed to the manifesto.

The Sexual Assault Center offers help to anyone who has experienced sexual violence. You can chat anonymously and for free or call 0800-0188.

The university has confidential counsellors for staff and students to whom you can report inappropriate behaviour. They will listen to your story, provide support and refer you to the proper organisations.