Universities have little clue about sexual harassment numbers

Photo: Bart van Overbeeke / Hollandse Hoogte

HBO colleges and universities must do more to protect students and staff against sexual harassment, special commissioner Mariëtte Hamer has said.

Hamer, who investigates cases of sexual harassment in institutions on behalf of the government, said that colleges and universities have very little idea about the real number of cases of sexual harassment taking place on their premises every year.

Together they received a total of 300 reports of sexual harassment which is at odds with investigations that show the figure to be much higher. Half of young women between the ages of 18 and 24 say they suffered incidences of sexual harassment, Hamer pointed out.

Students and staff often don’t report incidents because they think there will be no follow-up, she said. And while universities have agreed to appoint special counsellors to deal with the reports, many victims do not know who they should approach.

Colleges still have no legal requirement to appoint such a person, Hamers pointed out.

Universities must also do more to protect PhD students and post doc researchers, she said, because they are dependent on their supervisors and therefore vulnerable to abuse.

Hamer also said information about sexual mores should be part of the curriculum at universities and HBOs. Higher education is “crucial’ in preventing sexual harassment, so it can train professionals who will make the work floor a safer place, she said.

Hamer earlier launched a so-called student pact to combat sexual harassment in the student environment, including student societies, which have frequently hit the news because of sexist behaviour.

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