Universities in the UK are currently facing tight scrutiny over sexual assault allegations made on social media by former students who anonymously posted that while they attended the University of St. Andrews in Scotland they experienced sexual assault. These sexual assault allegations included “sexual violence, coercion, and harassment.” The social media campaign has sparked criticism of St. Andrews and other UK institutions for their handling of sexual assault allegations as outlets have reported in the last few days.
Those behind the social media campaign noted that current systems in place at most universities lag and offer students few options to address campus sexual harassment and assault, nor provide students with adequate support. The students behind the account are urging St. Andrews, and other UK universities, to provide more options for reporting incidents anonymously, regular updates on the reports received, and creating collateral material for awareness guides about sexual assault and rape for all students. As one young women behind the account told the Guardian, these women believe that there is “an endemic rape culture deeply embedded across the UK’s university and college sector, and the need to concentrate on survivors as well as the support and reporting systems that too often fail them.”
According to a February 2019 study by Brook, a sexual health charity, more than half of students at UK universities have been subject to inappropriate behavior including: touching, catcalling, unwanted explicit messages, sexual assault, rape, and harassment. This, while only six percent, according to the Student Room, reported these incidents to the university in part because of the lack of confidence students have over their reports being addressed. As Lisa Hallgarten, Brook’s head of policy and public affairs told Reuters, “People need to have confidence that there are clear responses to incidents, that they are used consistently and they can trust those responses in order to make sure that people do report sexual assault.”
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. That is why Symplicity Advocate is the most trusted solution for student wellbeing and misconduct management. It helps with early intervention to proactively identify and support students who need help, ranging from mental health issues to financial advice. Having all of the information in one place enables universities to help students faster and build a safer community.