In the Summer Semester of 2019, students of Heidelberg University conducted a survey to study the awareness about and prevalence of sexual harassment and assault at their University. The project was designed as a pilot survey and conducted at the three institutes – South Asia Institute, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Institute of Anthropology at the Centre of Asian and Transcultural Studies.

After almost a year of work, the Report on the Survey on the prevalence of and Awareness about Sexual Harassment and Violence at Heidelberg University Campus could be finalized. It gives an exhaustive summation from the quantitative and qualitative analysis.

On this website it is available for download via the link below.

All rights resevered by the authors.

Executive summary given by the authors

Any survey arises out of a need to establish or reject a premise. This report, from a survey conducted over the summer of 2019, is neither the first of its kind nor is it going to be the last. Plagued by perils of patriarchy and internalization of gender roles, our community at large has been immune to practices and understandings that need reengineering for a just, equitable and humane society. This survey is towards that end. Sexual harassment and violence seldom get the viable audience due to the nature of shame and prejudices.

The survey was conducted at three institutes of the Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies (CATS) at Heidelberg University: the South Asia Institute, Institute of Anthropology, and Heidelberg Center for Transcultural Studies. The survey link was sent via email to all the registered students for a response period of forty-five days and 146 valid responses were recorded. Strict anonymity was maintained throughout the process, considering the sensitivity of the issues discussed. In the survey design and the report, the term ‘Instructors’ has been used instead of Chair Holders, Professors, Lecturers and Doctoral Candidates in order to maintain anonymity. Even though the respondents were careful not to name any courses, instructors or institutes when mentioning their experiences, we have anonymized them with the code “[instructor; T.C. and A.M.]” to protect all parties involved.

The first part of the report is an ‘Introduction’ which provides details about the background, aim, timeframe, and sampling method. The second part ‘Findings’ is divided into three sections: the first sub-section deals with the ‘definitions’ of terms (according to German law) and what the respondents thought or knew about these terms; the second sub-section consists of their ‘Experiences’ at Heidelberg; and in the third sub-section, the ‘Institutions’, which are in place and what the respondents know and feel about their effectiveness, have been addressed. The last part of the report consists of suggestions and feedback from the respondents, external researchers and the authors of this report.

This report (in English) has direct quotations from the respondents’ answers, which were both in English and German. The German text has been translated by Alicka Machurich for easy comprehension for English speakers. The German text is also cited in the footnotes for reference. We have tried to make the report as clear and concise as possible, but at the same time it offers a comprehensive insight into the issues discussed. The report only gives a conclusion in terms of enabling the readers to find out the gravity of present practices and how it has been affecting students.

We found from our survey that 94.5% of students claimed to know what constituted sexual harassment. However, when asked to specify, 21% of the respondents did not know or were not sure of unwanted sexual advances as sexual harassment and less than half (45.2%) could correctly point out what constitutes sexual assault. 20.5% responded that they were aware of the Brochure on Sexual Harassment by the university though half of them have read or seen the brochure. While 43.8% reported of sexual harassment, 7.5% reported of sexual assault during their time at Heidelberg University. 49.3% of the respondents stated that they were not satisfied with the University measure to curb sexual harassment and assault. Specific incidents and comments from the respondents have been included in the report to highlight their experiences.
The numbers clearly give an indication that appropriate measures need to be taken to educate and inform students. Furthermore, there is an acute need for both preventive and curative measures to address sexual harassment and assault. As stated above, we hope that this is not the last attempt to tackle sexual harassment and violence in the university space. We hope, through continuous conversations and measures, that we can make our environment a little safer and more comfortable in order to fully harness the scientific temperament.

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