Victory

Change Extenuating Circumstances to include students affected by rape and sexual assault

Going to university is an exciting time in the life of every student - anticipating the new friends you'll meet and all of the new experiences that you will have during your degree.

As a student, have you ever considered what you would do if you were raped or sexually assaulted during your time at university? Who would you go to for help? Will you receive the correct type and amount of emotional and academic support?

You assume that the answer would be yes, of course you would. However, unfortunately at the majority of universities, the answer is not black and white.

Currently at The University of Birmingham, and the majority of universities across the UK, there is no specific clause included in The Code of Practice on Extenuating Circumstances (EC) regarding students who have been affected by rape or sexual assault during their studies.

Right now, you may be granted EC for:

  • Significant illness, accident or injury
  • The death or serious illness of a close family member or dependent 
  • Family crisis directly affecting the student
  • Absence caused by paternity leave
  • Jury service (deferral of which has been denied by the Court) 
  • Exceptional and unforeseen financial hardship

Can you see where rape or sexual assault fits into this list? Because I can't. 

Sexual assault and rape has devastating immediate and long-term effects which could include:

  • Relaying the incident to the police and seeking legal advice - a lengthy process which requires the sufferer to re-live the event countless times
  • Confiding in a medical professional, testing for the possibility of pregnancy and disease 
  • Depression
  • Night terrors 
  • Hyper vigilance
  • Guilt and self blame
  • Suicide  

At present, there is no official clause in The Code of Practice overtly stating that academic support will be given to survivors of rape and sexual assault, who are dealing with the effects alongside their studies. This needs to change. A clearly worded clause in The Code of Practice on Extenuating Circumstances would confirm that students are able to seek academic support from a Welfare or Personal Tutor, ensuring that their academic performance will not suffer whilst they begin their recovery. 

In a recent student survey taken by students at The University of Birmingham, 44% of participants anonymously admitted to having been sexual assaulted whilst at university with a staggering 12% admitting to having been raped. Rape and sexual assault is more common than you think, and needs to be acknowledged by universities as a factor that seriously affects wellbeing and as a result, can impact a student's academic performance. 

A common fear for a person who has been raped or sexually assaulted is the worry of not being believed. Coming forward to the police, a family member or a friend is difficult enough, therefore speaking out to university staff can prove even more challenging. Students may feel that they cannot come forward to their Welfare or Personal Tutor for help, for the fear of not being believed and/or nothing being done by the university to support the student.

A specific clause outlining a base protocol written into The Code of Practice may help to diminish that doubt, guaranteeing students that if they are to come forward, something will be done and their academic performance will never have to suffer unnecessarily. A specific clause may also encourage students to ask for the support needed at the earliest possible stage, giving the student a better chance of being given the correct amount of support at a crucial time such as an essay deadline.    

The university needs to acknowledge that rape and sexual assault is unfortunately a more common problem than we realise, which impacts the welfare and academic performance of thousands of students each year.

If you agree that universities should change their outdated EC Code of Practice to fit the needs of the students, including a specific clause for survivors of rape and sexual assault, then please sign this petition so that this does not continue to happen, and future students will never have to suffer in silence. 

This petition was delivered to:
  • University of Birmingham


    Student at UoB started this petition with a single signature, and won with 2,072 supporters. Start a petition to change something you care about.