Since its launch far too many (circa. 80) UK universities have been referenced on the Everyone’s Invited site; a platform for students to anonymously share experiences of sexual harassment, assault, abuse, and misogyny during their time at university. Whilst these are in the form of anonymous allegations and unconfirmed, Everyone’s Invited has sparked national recognition of considerable sexual assault and harassment happening at UK schools and universities. This increased attention on the violent threats, primarily against women has launched numerous investigations at many universities and raised an opportunity to review policy.
A Turning Point for Universities
The March 2021 report by Charity Plan International UK highlights just how prevalent sexual assault incidents are in the UK. The report found that 58 percent of girls aged 14-21 in the UK have been publicly sexually harassed in their learning environment and of those, two thirds were harassed by someone from their school, college, or university. These grim numbers show that universities are at the turning point as to how they handle sexual assault cases on and off campus, requiring them to look internally and ask themselves tough questions and investigate the severity and authenticity of these reports. A spokesperson for UK Universities told the press, “Universities have accelerated efforts to address harassment and misconduct in recent years and are in no doubt of the urgent need for progress, but the evidence shows there is still a long way to go”.
The Office of Students has provided recommendations to support higher education institutions as they navigate how to better prevent and respond to sexual misconduct and harassment reports on their campuses:
- Higher education providers should clearly communicate, and embed across the whole organisation, their approach to preventing and responding to all forms of harassment and sexual misconduct affecting students.
- Governing bodies should ensure that the provider’s approach to harassment and sexual misconduct is adequate and effective.
- Higher education providers should appropriately engage with students to develop and evaluate systems, policies and processes to address harassment and sexual misconduct.
- Higher education providers should implement adequate and effective staff and student training with the purpose of raising awareness of, and preventing, harassment and sexual misconduct.
- Higher education providers should have adequate and effective policies and processes in place for all students to report and disclose incidents of harassment and sexual misconduct.
- Higher education providers should have a fair, clear and accessible approach to taking action in response to reports and disclosures.
- Higher education providers should ensure that students involved in an investigatory process have access to appropriate and effective support.
How Symplicity Can Help
At Symplicity, we are fully committed to supporting UK universities in re-evaluating and transforming their practices when it comes to how they respond to sexual assault and harassment incidents. Universities can rely on Symplicity Advocate as a partner to ensure that universities have accurate pre-defined workflows underpinning the best possible response and course of action resulting in accountability by students and staff, and improve messaging across the University, delivering training for students, staff, and faculty on the prevention of harassment and assault incidents.
Critically, this includes enabling the opportunity for students to disclose and report incidents without fear of retaliation and with confidence that investigations are fair, thorough and independent. With Symplicity Advocate, universities can break down potential barriers through trustworthy reporting via access to real-time data, proactively linked to student profiles and fully integrated into the university technology ecosystem; thereby ensuring that each and every reported incident gets the attention it needs. Furthermore, universities can proactively determine and respond to underlying trends of concern ,defining behavioral expectations for all students, staff, and visitors. Symplicity supports universities as they integrate their codes of conduct to promote the high-expectations of the institution to new and current students and staff that sexual assault and harassment is not acceptable and will not be tolerated and the safety of students is paramount.
Lastly, with Symplicity Advocate, wellbeing advisors and student services managers can proactively identify and support students who need help. Having all the information in one place enables universities to help students faster and build a safer community.
For those interested in learning more about Advocate, schedule a conversation with us or email