Friday, June 22The Voice of London

New report on zero-tolerance towards sex assaults in UK universities

Universities UK published a report, introducing new guidelines concerning a zero-tolerance approach on sexual assault and harassment offences on campus.

By Micaela Kolischer | Sub-Editor: Sajid Hassan

The report advises universities across the UK on implementing a centralised reporting system, reinforced by well-prepared staff members. Conferences will also be held once a year to discuss successes.

University of Westminster graduate, Michaela Sibert reflected on the issue: ‘’People don’t talk enough about sexual assault in universities, even if they say they do. It should be talked about from early childhood, in schools and households.’’

The Guardian reported on the Universities UK report and its failure to examine staff-student sexual assaults, as commented by campaigners.

However, another University of Westminster student, Ioana Alazaroae shed light on the report: ‘’It’s better than doing nothing. Raising awareness and sending guidelines to universities will give them an impulse to do something. This is the right way of proceeding with something as serious as this.’’

‘’If the issue gets more coverage and press now, then it will have more chances of being successful’’, she said.

According to The National Union of Students (NUS) one in four women have suffered unwelcome sexual advances or rape during their time at university. The report came as a result of the alarming number of assaults and sexual advances at university campuses.

‘’If the issue gets more coverage and press now, then it will have more chances of being successful’’

The report, advises universities to:

  • Work with student unions to tackle violence, hate and harassment against female students, while undertaking systematic assessment.
  • Promote a zero-tolerance perspective towards sexual assault, informing student of the type of conduct expected from them. They should also guarantee staff members are aware of the importance of zero-tolerance.
  • Be able to create an approach that is accessible to all students and staff members in the case of sexual assault. They should also create a system to deal with reports of incidents.
  • Work alongside the local community, special services and the police to prevent and react towards violence against female students.

Last week, Alice Irving, a Criminal Law lecturer made headlines across the country for her experiences. While studying for her Master’s Degree at Oxford University in 2011, Irving was raped in student accommodation.

UK Universities are not alone in what has been described as ‘endemic’. Further education institutes elsewhere are being hit with sexual abuse accusations. This year, American universities were hit by a rape scandal, after Stanford student Brock Turner was convicted of raping an unconscious woman in 2015. The 20-year-old’s six-month sentence caused outrage for its short penalty and leniency.

SOAS is one of many UK universities determined to be proactive when it comes to sexual assault. Its Director Valerie Amos wrote in a Guardian article: ”We at Soas University of London want to be at the forefront of the drive to eliminate these crimes from our school”.

Do you want to find out how universities are dealing with sexual assault off-campus? Read Female students are more likely to be assaulted off-campus — and universities need to do more.