Women’s safety from sexual violence whilst at university is a global issue and the UK is no exception. Whilst the authors of this paper acknowledge that sexual violence can occur across the gender spectrum, most sexual violence ‘victims’ are women and girls, and this study explores sexual violence experienced by female undergraduates. This paper explored sexual violence and university students with fifteen undergraduate participants who took part in a total of three qualitative focus groups at one post-92 UK University. Whilst the study focussed on the experiences of female students, we sought the perspectives of female and male students to investigate this. The first focus group in this study consisted of five female students, the second, five females and two males, the third, two females and one male. Each focus group lasted between two and three hours and was audio recorded and transcribed. Focus groups were semi-structured. Participants were purposively sampled. Data was analysed through thematic analysis. A theme to emerge within the data demonstrated women changing behaviours to ‘stay safe’. This paper categorises safety behaviours into two typologies. Typology one is ‘indirect safety work’ which includes aspects such as putting up with unwanted sexual touching, and appropriation of cultures such as lad culture to fit in. Typology two is ‘direct safety work’ such as including male ‘protectors’ in social situations in an attempt to stay safe. This paper explores agency in the safety work that women do day to day, alongside the ‘hidden labour’ this entails which can restrict female freedom. This paper further explores the power that can be ascribed to particular gendered and sexed bodies and the power imbalances that can result. Women can be compelled to seek protection from those who are predatory toward them. This can be impacted by and contribute toward ‘shattering’, which is a loss of a belief in the world as a safe space or women’s perception of their capacity to keep themself safe within it.
Bovill, Helen; McCartan, Kieran; and Waller, Richard
"Female Undergraduates Playing it ‘Safe’ to Stay ‘Safe’: Further Understanding Sexual Violence against Women,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 23:
1, Article 17.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol23/iss1/17