Students call for universities to take action against drunken sexual harassment

Date Published

12th April 2016




Research carried out by ICM* for Drinkaware finds three quarters (73%) of students think universities should take disciplinary action against perpetrators of drunken sexual harassment with over half (61%) wanting their university to campaign against it and (56%) saying there should be counselling for those affected.

More than half of female students (54%) and one in seven (14%) of male students told us they had received inappropriate sexual comments or abuse or inappropriate sexual touching on a night out in the last 12 months, usually in nightclubs, bars or pubs in the towns they live in whilst at university**.

Worryingly more than two-fifths of those who experienced drunken sexual harassment (43%) said this type of behaviour happens almost every time they go on a night out, leaving them feeling disgusted (64%), angry (54%) and afraid (38%).

Half of students (46%) admit they do not know what their university’s stance is on drunken sexual harassment and only a third (34%) feel very confident that their university would believe them if they reported an incident. In fact, very few (1%) told university authorities or student welfare or counsellors (1%), preferring to tell a friend or partner***.

The research comes ahead of the launch of Drinkaware’s ‘You wouldn’t sober, you shouldn’t drunk’ campaign which aims to address sexual harassment, like groping and inappropriate sexual banter, which many young adults say they often experience as part of a night out.

Elaine Hindal, Chief Executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware says:

“Students have told us that drunken sexual harassment is a common and unwelcome part of a night out, yet they don’t feel empowered to stand up to it. Touching another person in a sexual way without their consent is legally defined as sexual assault. It’s a criminal offence and being drunk is no excuse for it.

“Universities are well placed to support students who have experienced unwanted sexual attention and to campaign against it but students are still more likely to tell a friend than anyone in authority. That’s why we’re encouraging universities and young adults to reinforce the message that if a behaviour isn’t acceptable sober, it isn’t acceptable drunk.”

Drinkaware’s ‘You wouldn’t sober, you shouldn’t drunk’ campaign featuring BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Mistajam launches in cinemas in the North West of England today (18th September). Join the conversation at #GropeFreeNights

For more information about Drinkaware’s ‘You wouldn’t sober, you shouldn’t drunk’ campaign visit


  • *ICM interviewed 2004 students between the 30th July – 12th August via online, the results above are based on those aged 18-24 years only which accounted for 1853 of the total sample
  • **The most common venue where drunken sexual harassment happens is a nightclub in town 68%; followed by a bar/pub in town 16%
  • ***Of those who told someone they had experienced drunken sexual harassment 83% told a female friend and 39% told a male friend; 23% told a partner
  • The ‘You wouldn’t sober, you shouldn’t drunk’ campaign is underpinned by a strategic review, commissioned by Drinkaware called Drunken nights out: motivations, norms and rituals in the night time economyeconomy. The independent report, led by social researcher Dr Simon Christmas, provides compelling insights into the motivations behind intentional drunkenness and the appeal and risks of drunken nights out amongst some young adults. Further details can be found at: