Universities accused of failing sexual assault victims

UK universities have been accused of failing victims of sexual assault with extensive and ineffective complaint procedures.

A Freedom of Information request to the BBC found that last academic year, over 700 allegations of sexual misconduct were made at 81 universities.

Of those 700, 110 were complaints of sexual assault whilst a further 80 allegations of rape were also made.

Particular emphasis in the investigation was placed on the complaint procedures universities carry out during such cases, with students reporting that universities were hesitant of taking action in fear of damaging their own reputation.

One student told the BBC investigation that their university suggested she sleep in the library after she said she would be too frightened to sleep in her own accommodation.

Another student said she felt that “I was the one who was on trial” and that despite the proceedings finding the accused guilty, they were only made to write an apology.

At one stage she said: “I had to sit on the same side of the table just a couple of seats away from him, while I was cross-examined by his lawyer”.

Last year the University of Warwick was engulfed in a scandal over its handling of a rape inquiry, resulting in protests on campus and making national headlines.

In the incident, both men accused were banned from campus and the University are currently carrying out an investigation in its handling of the case.

Currently there is no mandatory process universities must undertake during a report of sexual assault. There is also no set punishment on such allegations, with consequences ranging from expulsion from university or sending a letter of apology to the victim.

Last academic year Kent Union established a drink spiking kit at the on-campus nightclub, Venue, to help prevent sexual assault.

Universities UK, a collective organisation for universities, last established recommendations on how they should handle allegations of sexual assault in 2016.

They recommended introducing a “zero-tolerance culture” and that “some but not all cases may involve a police investigation and potentially a court case”.

Earlier this year wellbeing and sexual health charity, Brook, found that 56% of students had been victim to an act of unwelcome sexual behaviour but that only 8% had reported such incidents to the police or their university.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault at the University of Kent, contact the Student Support and Wellbeing Team on 01227 82 3206.