Amnesty International: “Eleven percent of female students in the NL have been raped” 

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“I find it shocking that so many female students experience rape”, says Dagmar Oudshoorn, Amnesty International Director in the Netherlands. The human rights organisation wants to start a conversation about rape in higher education. The full report can be read in Dutch here.

Amnesty defines rape as all forms of bodily penetration without consent, through insertion of the penis, fingers or an object. Rape does not necessarily involve violence. This is also made explicit in an upcoming amendment (link in Dutch) to the Dutch criminal code.

About 80 percent of students agree with this definition, according to the survey. But what does "without consent" mean exactly? A quarter of the respondents state that a non-consensual experience only qualifies as rape if it involves violence or intimidation.

The victims themselves don’t always use the word rape either: as much as 60 percent do not, while 18 percent only do so "sometimes, not always". Some feel partially responsible for what happened to them, while others don’t think of their experiences as serious incidents – or they happened within a relationship. Some believe they should have been more careful, because the rape took place when they were drunk.

It’s not always possible to say no or resist: some people just "freeze" when someone tries to force themselves on them. That's why it’s important to check whether somebody actually wants to have sex. Unfortunately, 22 percent of students say they have never heard of this freeze reflex.

Being raped is a traumatic event that can have severe consequences. Three quarters of rape survivors report problems as a result of their experience. Some have These can be of psychological or sexual nature, but some victims can also have relationship problems. Academic performance can be affected negatively as well.

Over 60 percent of students have no idea where they can go to get counselling at their higher education institution. Only five percent say they know exactly who to turn to. “A staggering 71 percent of women – who are far more likely to experience rape and sexual violence than men – don’t know where to get more information or help”, the report states.

The Dutch Student Union (LSVb) says the results of the survey are painful. “This is unacceptable and requires more attention and action from both educational institutions and the student community”, says union president Lyle Muns.

According to LSVb, educational institutions must make it clear to their students where they can turn to for help – and they must do so as soon as possible, on the orientation days that precede the start of the academic year. A year ago, the union already made an appeal for better ways to report transgressive behaviour.

For the sake of accuracy, it should be noted that the number of female students who have experienced rape is actually higher than 11 percent, as some were raped before going to university. The total is 18 percent. Among men, the figure is 3 percent.

Amnesty will ask educational institutions to sign a manifesto in which they “promise to provide better protection for students who have experienced sexual violence”.