Content Warning: This article contains detailed discussions and descriptions of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape

"These stories remind us that the 97% is not just a figure, but all the women in our lives."Odessa Chitty

Let’s be honest: I’m sorry that it took a UN survey that found that 97% of women in our age group experience some form of sexual harassment to remind us of the urgency of this issue. It should have only taken an honest conversation with your friends to realise that you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman or an individual from marginalised genders for whom sexual harassment has not had a tangible effect on their life. Nevertheless, the 97% figure has brought this issue further into the forefront of our minds, and for that I am not sorry.

I know that an article like this will not be easy to read. It certainly wasn’t easy to write, but reading each and every testimony reminded me that in the failure to address rape culture, young women are merely the collateral. These testimonies reveal the various ways in which sexism manifests in society, a culture that cannot be reduced or conflated to a single crime. At the same time, these testimonies are still not representative of all the different intersectionalities of marginalisation that women and gender minorities face. What they do show is that every single one of us needs to do more. Even as #allmen trends on social media, as a woman, I can’t help but reflect on where I’ve failed to protect others. Every time we laughed along with our friends when someone made a questionable joke, or failed to call out casually sexist or objectifying comments, we all play a part. For every person that takes the time to read this article, perhaps that can make one more person think twice about their behaviour, and hopefully, that’s one less person with a story like these Cambridge students. These stories remind us that the 97% is not just a figure, but all the women in our lives.

I gave up trying to report him

There is a student, still studying at my college, who has sexually assaulted numerous women during his time here; he has groped drunk women in clubs, stalked them home and even used physical force.

Even his female friends have chosen to protect him, despite knowing the dangers he poses. I have been groped and followed home by him before, and many have experienced much worse. I gave up trying to report him when it became apparent that none of his friends or potential witnesses would come forward, confront him, or even talk to him.

What he’d do “if I was older”

Sexual harassment against women is a real and visceral concern. In my home town, I was frequently harassed by senior members of staff in the workplace. One manager, when I bent down to retrieve something from a low cupboard, made a joke about me giving him oral sex. The other constantly made comments about what he’d do “if I was older”. I was 17 years old at the time.

They had a points system for getting with girls

After being friends, partying and getting with the boys in college for months, I found out they had a points system for getting with girls. It was based on how hot and not ‘easy’ the girls were, extra points if they were in a relationship and extra extra points if they were a lesbian. They updated each other about every time they got more points and it was just a competition between them. They discussed tactics on whether it was better to just get with loads of 1 pointers or invest more time trying to pull a 5 pointer. All that time we thought we were friends with these boys and casually getting with them at parties like most teenagers do. Little did I know the boys only wanted to talk to me and kiss me because I was worth 5 points in their lads game.

“I’ve been catcalled on numerous occasions in Cambridge, walking with my friends and alone.”

Feeling helpless because of lack of evidence

When I was in grade 8 back in my hometown, a boy took a photo through the cuff of my T-shirt. I’m not so sure if it truly is a kind of harassment but it feels really wrong, and the boy had a disgusting attitude towards teenage girls back then. When I was 18, I revealed the boy’s name on social media (I had only 30 or so friends who could see my post and little of my junior high school classmates were there) trying to alert those who were around the boy then. I was discovered and threatened by his parents and my teacher at junior high using the name of law because I had no evidence. It was indeed impulsive of me to take actions before knowing the related statute but I could not help thinking how many victims who experienced something far worse than me are feeling helpless because of lack of evidence.

He wouldn’t move until I kissed him

I was forced onto the ground and he lay right on top of me - I could hardly breathe - and he was touching me, telling me he wouldn’t move until I kissed him.

I have felt uncomfortable and quite frankly unsafe

I’ve been catcalled on numerous occasions in Cambridge, walking with my friends and alone. Me and my friend were waiting for a pizza and 2 guys rolled up on scooters at around 9 pm, whistling, winking and asking “you alright ladies?”. They went to the end of the street and I thought they were done, but they came back down the road a few times and kept looking at us, waiting for an answer. That is only one of the numerous times I have felt uncomfortable and quite frankly unsafe.

“I was in my own room and felt vulnerable and unsafe.”

It’s a great way to get laughs whilst with the boys

I was catcalled in school both by older and younger students. As much as the older guys made me feel uncomfortable, the worst experience was when a year 9 student (I was a prefect in year 13 at the time) said ‘nice ass’ when he was walking off with his friends after I’d asked them to stop misbehaving. The fact that he felt so comfortable harassing an older student in a position of authority was so disturbing and shows how prevalent rape culture is (I think this is especially true in all-boys schools) and at how young an age it starts. I never reported it because I thought I’d sound pathetic because he was younger, but I really regret it because now that boy is going to think he can get away with it and especially given the validation from his friends’ reactions, he will think it’s a great way to get laughs whilst with the boys.

I didn’t want to cause a scene, luckily my friend came upstairs

I was at my brother’s birthday party and one of his friends *who has a girlfriend* was being very flirty with me when I was very drunk. I was in my room tidying up and he came into my room and was hugging me and touching and squeezing my bum. I didn’t know what to do because he was my brother’s friend and I didn’t want to cause a scene, luckily my friend came upstairs and I went down with her. We were then all sat downstairs and he was squeezing my thighs and I was looking at my friends for help. I was in my own room and felt vulnerable and unsafe.

I say “no” several times. He says “just one kiss, your boyfriend will never know”

I went to a different college with a group of my mates. A guy started being friendly (which was nice) - then possibly flirting. I wasn’t sure so I mentioned casually that I have a boyfriend a few times. The same behaviour continued so I assume it’s just friendliness. Later on, I’m drunk, he flirts more obviously, I smile and repeat that I have a boyfriend. Later on, I am more drunk and I’m exiting the bathroom and there he is (a restricted part of the room, in between the room door, the bathroom, and the main part of the bedroom where everyone else is partying). It’s a small restricted area - he puts his arms around me and keeps flirting and trying to kiss me. I say several, several times that I won’t kiss him and that I’m in a relationship (the whole time I’m trying to be polite because in my head I don’t want to ~cause a scene~). I say “no” several times. He says “just one kiss, your boyfriend will never know”. I’m trying to be polite and not make a fuss the whole time so I’m smiling awkwardly; moving my head to the side so he doesn’t try to kiss me and casually trying to physically push him off of me. I’m scared that if I aggressively push him off he might get angry and/or violent. (It’s entirely likely that he would never cross the line of getting violent, but at the end of the day I don’t know this guy at all so I have to prioritise my own safety instead of giving the benefit of the doubt to this random guy). Eventually, one of my (male) mates walks in on us and saves me.

A lot of people might sympathise with him - my initial reaction was that it was all my fault. But I thought about it. I thought if I was trying to move to someone and they said they were in a relationship would I keep trying? If anyone said out loud to me “no”, “no I can’t”, “no I’m cuffed”, “I have a boyfriend”, even if they say all of this politely, is there any circumstance in which I’d keep trying to flirt with them and kiss them? Absolutely not. There are much worse stories than mine but the part that stuck with me is this: one of my friends later asked me “what do you think would have happened if there was no one else at the party and if your mate had never walked in?” Maybe nothing would have happened and he’d have just got bored and left me alone - maybe not.


Mountain View

Violence and harassment: A Varsity statement of solidarity

I would be ‘just his type’ if he wasn’t my supervisor

When I first came to Cambridge and I googled a picture of my supervisor it honestly made me excited to see that he was a very attractive PhD student. Me and my friends giggled about it saying how jealous they were that my supervisor was so fit. When we started he was really friendly, comforting and supportive through the transition into university which I was thankful for. But I’m actually kind of worried now. It was all funny thinking about how fit and available he was but I think he’s started acting differently to me than to other students, and it makes me scared. The male students in our supervisions have noticed how he acts like he’s flirting with me, when we’re alone he’s made some comments about how attractive I am and how I would be ‘just his type’ if he wasn’t my supervisor. It sounds weird because if you told me this would happen months ago I would have found it exciting and almost sexy, but I feel like it’s wrong. He is always suggesting extra private supervisions and I feel guilty refusing him but I know that from the outside looking in it all seems very exploitative and like he’s using his position of power over me? I honestly don’t know what to do, he’s a great supervisor and I’m known as a flirt but I feel like this has gone too far. At the end of the day, I’m a student and he’s my teacher, it feels wrong.

These testimonies are just a small selection of those received from Cambridge students, but there are infinite numbers of stories to be told. In the shame culture we live in, so many of these stories go unheard and individuals suffer in silence– often never feeling able to verbalise their experiences. 

As the death of Sarah Everard and the stories of sexual misconduct in British schools fall to the back of the news cycles, we cannot let them fall to the back of our minds. The urgency to tackle rape culture and sexual harassment cannot be understated.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following organisations provide support and resources: