Sharp increase in sexual harassment, bullying reports at Dutch universities
The number of reports of sexually transgressive behavior like sexual harassment and -misconduct at Dutch universities increased significantly in the past four years. In 2019, there were 141 reports, and in 2022, there were 300 - an increase of 113 percent, according to a survey by Argos among all universities in the Netherlands. Reports about other non-sexual forms of transgressive behavior, like bullying and exploitation, increased by 69 percent, from 1,007 in 2019 to 1,700 in 2022.
The increase in reports did not translate into action taken, Argos found. Last year, universities filed only two formal complaints of sexually transgressive behavior - the same as in previous years. Formal complaints about other forms of misconduct averaged about 20 per year from all universities together. “That is less than 2 percent. In absolute figures: compared to 4,652 reports in four years, there is a total of 80 complaints,” the researchers pointed out.
They noticed a striking increase in transgressive behavior reports at Radboud University Nijmegen, where reports tripled from 69 in 2019 to 225 in 2022.
“It is a serious problem for universities that sexual misconduct occurs on this scale,” Mariette Hamer, the government commissioner against sexual violence, told Argos. According to her, the low number of formal complaints shows “a high threshold for people who have made a report to file a complaint” despite universities having set up all kinds of complaint procedures and -committees. “A complaint leads to an entire procedure with both sides being heard. You have to make yourself known. And victims are also vulnerable. They often don’t know what the consequences are.”
Hamer pointed out that the increased number of reports may also mean that the culture is opening up so that victims can come forward more easily. Few reports don’t mean that little is going on, she said. Sexual harassment and -misconduct happen anywhere, Hamer said. “Don’t be too quick to think: I’m not getting notifications, so nothing is wrong. Perhaps there is a culture where people do not dare to speak out, and much more is happening behind the scenes.”