An illustration of a woman with a large envelope under her arm. She is walking on a road towards a TU Delft building.
(Illustration: Marjolein van der Veldt / Canva)

Not all students believe that TU Delft handles reports about sexually transgressive behaviour carefully. This transpired from Merel’s experience.

Lees in het Nederlands

At the end of June, Delta published the findings of an investigation into transgressive behaviour among TU Delft students. While more than two thirds of the students asked said that they had experienced sexually transgressive behaviour during their studies, only a small proportion of the victims reported it to a confidential advisor, academic counsellor, teacher or other staff member at TU Delft. Of the students who had non-consensual sex or oral sex, more than 80% did not report it. The percentage is even higher in cases of other forms of sexually transgressive behaviour: 95%.

  • People transgress the sexual boundaries of others in many different ways. It could be digitally, for example through sexual comments on social media or inappropriate pictures such as dick pics. Or verbally, like cat calling (sexually charged jokes or comments about someone’s sexual preference or appearance). Many students also experience physical transgressive behaviour. This could be undesirable touching or kissing, for example when going out. But rape happens too.

Different reasons
Why so few students report incidents has different reasons (graphic). Some respondents say that they felt partly responsible (‘I doubted myself, maybe it was my own fault?’); are ashamed about what happened; do not feel it serious enough to report (‘I just thought at the time that it was ‘just something’ that can happen to any girl’); or believe that lodging a report would not have any effect (‘I did not think that anything would be done about it, which would only cause more frustration rather than helping’).

Anyone at TU Delft wishing to report transgressive behaviour can approach various people, including a Confidential Advisor and Academic Counsellor. With your permission, they will put you in touch with the Safety and Security Department. They guide students through the process of lodging a report if they have been the victim of sexually transgressive behaviour.

  • Read more about the help TU Delft offers in cases of transgressive behaviour

Still, few students know who to turn to. Almost half (46%) of the respondents do not know where they can report transgressive behaviour or how they can lodge an official complaint about transgressive behaviour at TU Delft (71%).

But 86% of the respondents do believe that TU Delft investigates cases of transgressive behaviour. More than half the students (53.5%) have confidence in the careful handling of the situation by TU Delft, 40% do not have confidence and 6.5% do not know.

Merel’s story
Five years ago, Merel’s (surname known to the Editorial Office) confidence suffered a major blow. She experienced transgressive behaviour during her course’s first years’ weekend. She shared the details with Delta, but also asked them not to be published for concerns of traceability.

She later told the study association what had happened. “They dealt with it very well. They were there for me and the relevant person – a student in one of the years above me – was suspended for two weeks. Sadly, the person in question said that it had not happened. It was his word against mine. As I did not want the discussion to be continued, I did not report it. After that the Safety and Security Department started an investigation and I also was invited for a meeting.”

“It was a very unpleasant experience. The woman who I told my story to clearly did not believe me. She had – I think – first talked to him and it looked like she had already drawn her conclusions. I was 18, a first year student at TU Delft, and sat opposite a staff member who did not believe me and seemed to be placing the blame on me. She should have listened openly but, after her meeting with him, she had already formed an opinion of me. After the meeting I talked about it with friends, but I didn’t know whether or to whom I could submit a complaint at TU Delft.”

The investigation was closed in the end because of a lack of evidence. While Merel condemns the Safety and Security Department, she praises her study association for how it dealt with it. “The following year, the study association appointed confidential mentors. These are Confidential Advisors at the study association that have undergone special training and are available to talk to you.”

Last year she herself was on the board of the study association and worked on training and a code of conduct for mentors who go on the first years’ weekend. “It is important that they are aware of the power structure there is towards lower years. There is also plenty of attention being paid to inclusiveness for women, LGBTI+ students, and international students through inclusiveness lunches, which is a safe meeting place where students can share their experiences with each other.

To Merel, it is thus important that everyone at TU Delft not only talks about these things, but also takes concrete action when necessary. “Only then can we ensure that TU Delft is an inclusive and safe environment for all students.”

Response of the Safety and Security Department
Through its Project Manager Patrick Sittrop, the Safety and Security Department stated that it was very disappointed that Merel had experienced the situation negatively. “The Safety and Security Department has a different view on how the situation progressed. We believe it to be important to handle reports like this extremely carefully and therefore, in the interest of everyone involved, do not go into depth into individual cases. If Merel wishes, we would be happy to meet with her again so that we both have a better understanding of why we have a different views.”

“It goes without saying that transgressive behaviour is never acceptable. TU Delft must be a safe place where you feel welcome and where you feel comfortable that you can be yourself. Unfortunately, that safe environment can also be jeopardised. In that case, you can always approach someone to discuss it confidentially. If you believe that it is a case of undesirable behaviour, do not keep it to yourself, but discuss it as a witness.”

  • Delta spoke to Patrick Sittrop (Safety and Security Department) and Rivka van Mastrigt (TU Delft Integrity Office) about the support that TU Delft offers in cases of undesirable behaviour. Where can students go and what process do they undergo? Read the interview here.

Where can you go for help?

  • Have you experienced an unwanted sexual experience and do you want to talk about it? The specialists at the Sexual Assault Center are there for you. You can chat or phone 0800-0188 anonymously and free of charge.
  • It may be useful to first talk with someone of the same age. This may feel less ‘scary’ than an adult. This could be a friend or the confidentional advisor at your study association.
  • TU Delft also offers support. You can contact the Confidential Advisor or your Academic Counsellor.
  • With your permission, your they will put you in touch with the Safety and Security Department. They guide students through the process of lodging a report if they have been the victim of sexually transgressive behaviour.
  • You may also be referred to the student psychologists. They offer short term guidance of up to three sessions. If you need long term support, they will refer you to the general practitioner or a psychologist outside TU Delft. You are also always free to contact the student psychologists if you feel the need to do so.
  • You can also contact your own general practitioner or the Student Healthcare Services (SGZ). Should the general practitioner not be available in the weekend, you can always contact the general medical centre in Delft on 015-2511930. See the website for more information.
  • As one of 10 students experiences sexual intimidation, there is a good chance that you can listen to someone. In this case, it is helpful to know how best to respond. The important thing is to stay calm. Staying calm helps the other person tell his or her story. More conversation techniques are available on #metoo gespreksetiquette (in Dutch).