Due to their age and lifestyle, female students in general are at an increased risk of various forms of sexual violence. Particular sociocultural contexts also form the background of gender-based violence in professional and academic structures. Yet despite institutional and legal efforts to protect (potential) survivors of sexual violence from primary (and secondary) victimization, persistent assaults demonstrate the reluctance of organizations and individuals to fully accept women’s experiences as being physically and psychologically harmful. Based on quantitative and qualitative data obtained in the context of the European research project “Gender-Based Violence, Stalking and Fear of Crime”,
this article presents a comparative analysis of the prevalence of sexual violence, feelings of safety (or a lack thereof) and the reasons for (non-)disclosure for five European countries. A dataset of about 21,000 responses from German, British, Italian, Spanish and Polish students indicates that sexualized violence is a major problem at universities and that it has yet to be recognized as such. This – added to the fact that it is generally suppressed or concealed by universities – makes it society’s problem as well. The article discusses widespread social myths about victims and perpetrators, the role of the new media in victimization, and the issues of universities’ responsibility for their students (through institutional policy and specific responses to incidents of gender-based violence). The results presented here demonstrate the contradictory perceptions that students have in regard to their experiences and the nature of sexualized violence in an academic environment.