The Impact of Sexual Assault at UK Universities

Recently UK universities have come under fire on ways they mishandle incidents of sexual assault allegations against students, staff, and even professors. Assault allegations at UK universities have received increased attention across the UK with various universities refusing to investigate allegations made by students and mounting pressure on UK universities to address sexual misconduct on their campuses after fraternity students at the University of St. Andrews were suspended for sexual assault allegations were anonymously posted on social media this summer.

An overarching concern for students is the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that many say are used to silence those who come forward. In February 2020, the BBC reported that it had sent Freedom of Information requests to 136 universities on how many students had signed NDAs in the past four years after filing a complaint to the university. Out of those who responded, 45 universities said that they had used NDAs “but not all of them disclosed full details, meaning it is hard to determine the true scale and this is an underestimate.” The BBC also found that universities spent £87m on pay-offs with staff since 2017 and that NDAs were found by the BBC to typically be used by universities to stop bullying, discrimination, and sexual misconduct allegations from becoming public.

Just this month, a female student at Leicester’s De Montfort University (DMU) told the BBC that in 2018 a professor “grabbed her” in 2018 and he tried to kiss her. She reported the incident to university officials who, according to her, “tried to manipulate [her], to make it seem less big than it was” and refusing to investigate the incident further. By December 2019, the student said the incident had impacted her mental health so much that she took her own life. This is very troubling to university staff trying to do right by the students, parents, and the UK university system as a whole. Due to the heightened scrutiny student wellbeing offices across the UK, it is imperative that students and staff have the confidence that, if they were to report a sexual misconduct allegation, the proper steps will be taken whether it be for mental health support or to ensure the proper consequences are enforced.

Student wellbeing offices across the UK can count on Symplicity Advocate for accurate reporting, workflows, and proactive solutions to ensure that incidents are properly followed up with. For this reason, accurate reporting is essential for providing students with the knowledge that universities first, and foremost, are there to ensure the safety of all students is accountable. Students need to feel confident that the systems in place are there to support them throughout the process, with streamlined communication and documentation. With Symplicity Advocate, wellbeing advisors and student services managers can proactively identify and support students who need help. Having all of the information in one place enables universities to help students faster and build a safer community.

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