But five years after the start of the MeToo movement, the series of revelations about sexual harassment in the Dutch entertainment world and after two years of social distancing, a fluffy approach to this special didn’t feel right. Because sexual misconduct is everywhere, also at universities and among students. The question arose: is sex still fun?
A year ago, after conducting a survey among students, Amnesty International concluded that one in ten women students was raped during her studies. The EM investigation now shows that two thirds of the respondents have experienced sexual harassment at some point.
What happens at the university?
Is this something new? Is sexual harassment happening more often? Or is it just that can’t you do and say anything these days? We wondered: what’s the situation at Erasmus University? What are students experiencing and what do they feel should and shouldn’t be allowed?
We wanted answers to these questions, and we weren’t the only ones. The confidential counsellors at the university have been lobbying for a similar survey for several years. Because, and that was another thing that emerged from our survey, many students don’t report what has happened to them, even though they suffer the consequences, sometimes for years.
The lack of reports doesn’t mean there’s no problem
Now, I don’t want to fall into the same trap as media magnate John de Mol, who, after the revelations about The Voice, said that he couldn’t do anything if no one reported anything. That’s obviously not, or not totally, correct. Of course, confidential counsellors need a report to be able to act. But the lack of reports doesn’t mean there’s no problem.
The reasons why victims don’t report incidents are shame, a sense of guilt and making it less serious than it was. At the same time, it doesn’t help that if an incident is reported, the case is downplayed, or victims are asked if they couldn’t have done something themselves. Victims regularly regret reporting something because they don’t feel they are taken seriously, which only reinforces the trauma.
Furthermore, reports, or at least figures like those from the Amnesty investigation and now from EM, are needed to instigate change. If 11 percent of respondents who have experienced verbal sexual harassment indicate that this behaviour took place on campus by a fellow student or lecturer, as responsible board members you should certainly be scared out of your wits.
Sticker in the bathroom
It’s therefore good that there are already plans – and yes, it always sounds soft – to create awareness about the subject. Because it sometimes is awfully hard to establish what’s a joke or a flirt and what certainly isn’t. Everyone needs to become more aware of this.
As a child, there was a sticker on our bathroom at home (we’re talking here about the 1980s) that said: “If a girl says no, she means no”. The sticker was part of a public awareness campaign. But looking at what we now know about sexual harassment and the impact on those who experience it, I want to crack it up a notch: “If a girl – or whoever – does not say yes, that’s also no”. Time for new stickers. And fun sex.