Students walk down the stairs in educational building Pulse. This building is on the TU Delft campus.
Photo for illustration purposes only. (Photo: Justyna Botor)

Two out of three TU Delft students experience sexually transgressive behaviour during their studies, a Delta survey reveals. How did our investigation come about?

Lees in het Nederlands

In recent weeks, Delta investigated sexually transgressive behaviour among students. Read more about our methodology here.

Last year, a survey carried out by I&O Research on behalf of Amnesty International found that one out of 10 female students in the Netherlands is the victim of rape during her student time. We wanted to know if the percentages at TU Delft are comparable to the national percentages. Have students here experienced sexually transgressive behaviour and if so, what? And how often does this occur outside or at TU Delft?

  • Read here the results of Delta's research into sexual transgression at TU Delft

Sexually transgressive behaviour mostly occurs between students, sometimes on campus, but often elsewhere. If something negative happens while students are out or in a student house, the students may see each other in the lecture hall. What do students expect from TU Delft? Do they know where and how to get help?

Questionnaire
We tried to gauge whether, and the extent to which, TU Delft students have encountered sexually transgressive behaviour by asking respondents if, since starting their studies at TU Delft, they have had unwanted penetration or oral sex, experienced unwanted touching, or unwanted verbal or digital sexual comments, jokes, or pictures. The respondents could tick 12 experiences and then received follow-up questions about their experiences, who the perpetrator was, where it happened, whether there was pressure or force, and if and with whom they talked about it.

Some students rightly commented that the list was not complete and that sexually transgressive behaviour is sometimes more complicated. Stalking was not included for example, while it often is related to sex. One respondent also commented that people who have experienced sexually transgressive behaviour are more likely to fill in a questionnaire on the issue.

Who were the respondents?
214 students filled in the questionnaire between 21 April and 1 June 2022. The respondents came from all faculties. 42% are master’s students, the rest bachelor’s students. 12% of the respondents are international students. This means that international students are under-represented in this survey as 24% of the student body are international students (on 14 June 2022).

The ratio of male and female students is about the same. 50% of the respondents is male, 49% female and 1% do not identify with either gender. Given the percentage of female students at TU Delft (31% on 14 June 2022), female students are over-represented in the survey.

Margin of error
On a total population of 25,753 students, excluding PhD students, at TU Delft (on 28 June) the margin of error in a random survey of 214 students is 7% with a level of confidence of 95%.

The margin of error is an indication of the degree to which the survey results reflect the whole population. If 60% of the respondents answer ‘yes’ with a margin of error of 7%, this means that between 53% (60 - 7) and 67% (60 + 7) of the entire TU Delft population believe that the answer should be ‘yes’.

Why we use terms such as rape, perpetrator and victim with caution
The Amnesty survey shows that more than half the students who experienced rape do not view it as rape themselves. They have various reasons for this and it is partly related to public perception and often to the context. The term rape thus does not always cover the experience. This does not mean that we do not view penetration without consent as rape, but that we need to be careful about labelling it as such.

The same applies to terms such as perpetrator and victim. Someone that has experienced sexual transgression is often viewed as a victim while they themselves may not always see themselves as such. Furthermore, transgressive behaviour does not always have negative consequences. Equally, some situations involving sexually transgressive behaviour may be unclear. An example of this is that one person believes that they made clear that they did not want something, but the other person did not pick up this signal. Does every situation then always involve a perpetrator and a victim? Here too it does not mean that the experience or the behaviour was not transgressive, but that words like perpetrator and victim do not always cover every situation. We thus tried to avoid these kinds of words as far as we could unless the students used them themselves.

With thanks
This survey would not have been possible without the help of Erasmus Magazine’s editors Tim Ficheroux and Feba Sukmana. They shared the questionnaire and the accountability that they compiled with the help of various experts, and were always available for questions. We are also grateful to all the students who filled in the questionnaire and shared their personal experiences with us.

  • As a result of the research, we also asked the TU Delft student psychologists for a reaction. This response has yet to be discussed internally and is therefore not included in the article.
  • If you have any questions about the survey or the choices we made, mail Delta Editor Marjolein van der Veldt.