Give sexual assault survivors better support at university
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Sexual harassment at universities is at epidemic levels - with over 300 claims made against staff in 6 years. Exams are just around the corner and lack of support, recovery of those affected, and their academic performance is put at risk.
If a student falls ill during assessments, they can apply for re-assessment options. Why isn’t that the case for a student who has been sexually assaulted?
Having been a Women’s Officer at my university, I've heard from students and friends who have experienced this say the “debilitating after-effects are exacerbated by the added pressure of exams.”
That’s why I’m calling on UK universities to all include sexual assault as a mitigating circumstance in their policies. And for Universities UK (UUK) and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) to advise them to do so.
Survivors tell me of the “profound impact sexual misconduct can have on a person’s ability to focus on revision”. They say “it would be so helpful to know, going into exams, that this would be duly taken into account.” Universities need to understand that surviving sexual violence can and does prevent people from working to the best of their ability.
A student lucky enough to get an extension was grateful given that for weeks after the incident she was “really anxious and wouldn’t sleep properly, which really affected [her] work”.
Without being included in policies, this may not happen for every student affected. Without being included in policies, students may not feel able to come forward. They should expect sufficient support, not simply hope for it.
Universities, like my own, are beginning to act after UUK’s report and are creating new policies. In the meantime, sexual harassment must be listed as an extenuating circumstances in existing policies.
So please sign my petition and share it widely. Let’s use the institutions we already have to keep universities in check and make them spaces that are fully supportive of survivors.
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