Universities's sexual assault reporting labelled “waste of time”

Ruby Story Dartford on the inadequate handling of sexual assault complaints within UK universities

Ruby Story Dartford
19th May 2021
Feature Image: @hellogiggles via Twitter

cw // mention of sexual assault

Campaigners have called for universities to make sexual misconduct inquiries a legal requirement to prevent staff moving institutions to avoid repercussions.

This new measure would mean new employees would be notified of the ongoing accusations through a written reference.

The news come after universities have been found to suppress details of sexual assault investigation outcomes from those who report it. Numerous complaints against universities have been filled due to the organisations not supporting victims of sexual assault.

Anna Bull, campaigner and co-director of the 1752 Group which lobbies to prevent sexual misbehaviour within university institutions, said that universities withheld information as the result of ongoing investigations, following fears it could breach data protection legislation. She added that the whole reporting process is “a waste of time and a slap in the face”. 

The institution regulator, The Office for Students (OfS), published further advice for institutions which recommended providing those who report sexual misconduct complaints with further information surrounding their investigation.

Institutions were further encouraged to provide explanations as to why sanctions had not been enforced. It has also been stated that universities who fail to follow this advice may be sanctioned for failing to be transparent with those who have issued complaints. 

The guidance comes in response to campaign website ‘Everyone’s Invited’ after the publication of disclosures revealing the scale of misconduct at UK institutions. Many have suggested that rape culture remains present despite numerous indications from campaigners for change to the system. 

Gemma McCall, founder of Culture Shift, an anonymous platform to report harassment and bullying, said: “It’s a lottery as a student whether you’re going to get a university that isn’t risk-averse and which will share outcomes if the worst happens, but that should be clear and consistent across the sector.”

In response to the findings, a spokesman for the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “Our advice is that data protection is not a barrier to sharing information when it is appropriate to do so and it is necessary and proportionate for the purpose. Universities should be transparent about the complaints process and only share the personal data it needs to.” 

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AUTHOR: Ruby Story Dartford
Journalist Student studying at Newcastle University.

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