Sexual violence uni staff training may have saved me

A sexual violence survivor asserts that she might not have been violated if university personnel had received specialized training.

Scholars and activists are of the opinion that universities fail to maintain sufficient documentation regarding the pervasive nature of sexual violence.

This information, they stated, was crucial for providing adequate services and support.

Less than half of universities in the United Kingdom were able to furnish current sexual misconduct statistics.

The categorization of these reports by the 142 public universities was revealed to be diverse through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. While some refer to sexual misconduct as a broad category, others use more specific terms such as rape, sexual assault, and harassment.

In the preceding six years, over a thousand allegations of sexual misconduct were documented across the eight universities in Wales.

However, many individuals opt not to report and are therefore absent from these FOI records.

To safeguard Ffion’s identity, her name has been altered to ensure that she is not included in the figures.

She felt isolated when she began attending Swansea University in 2017; consequently, she began a relationship with a classmate who subjected her to physical and emotional abuse, followed by a rape.

Ffion stated that accommodation security had observed her boyfriend engaging in inappropriate behavior, including “trashing” her room frequently and “threatening suicide” when she attempted to terminate their relationship. This should have prompted action from the security personnel.

She expressed the view that educating the security personnel on bystander training could have helped, as it facilitated their ability to identify the warning signs.Sexual violence uni staff training may have saved me

Bystander training instructs individuals on how to identify inappropriate conduct and intervene safely to avert violence.

She stated, “I believe intervention should have begun earlier when he was physically abusing me; that would have prevented me from remaining with him and possibly prevented him from having sex with me without my consent.”

Ffion recounted her master’s degree-seeking experience in 2020 to a lecturer. Although he expressed “extensive support,” he failed to direct her to any pertinent resources.

Despite filing a police report, the investigation failed to progress with her case. She was instead directed to specialized assistance.

“All allegations of sexual assault are taken seriously, and we have robust processes in place,” stated Swansea University.

Furthermore, it was stated that security personnel who interacted with students were “identified as key staff members” and were, therefore “, trained as mental first aid trainers and bystanders to recognize signs of distress and provide appropriate support.”

By implementing the recommendations of an evaluation pertaining to its management of sexual misconduct, the organization aims to foster a shift in culture by providing consent training and bystander intervention.

What causes the lack of data?

Of the participants surveyed, 67 were able to provide only incomplete data, while 33 have yet to respond.

A number of the universities had, in accordance with their data retention policies, deleted information after a specified period.

For instance, the University of South Wales asserted that it no longer possessed sexual misconduct data prior to 2017/18, citing its deletion six years subsequent to the final intervention in the matter.

Rhian Bowen Davies, a former national adviser for violence against women for the Welsh government, advocated for a “mandate for universities to consistently and routinely compile data.”

Ms Bowen Davies remarked, “How can we develop services and responses that effectively address the needs of survivors and ensure that those responsible are held accountable when we do not know the full scope of the problem?”

She expressed scepticism regarding universities’ willingness to comprehend the magnitude of the problem, given that the repercussions could have an impact on their operations.

A law professor at the University of Exeter, Professor Rachel Fenton, shared her perspectives. She disseminated her research to the Equality and Social Justice Committee of the Senedd-Welsh Parliament, which operates on a cross-party basis.

She stated that universities are acting extremely independently and that the experience of female students differs significantly from institution to institution.

Students, according to Professor Fenton, are especially susceptible to sexual violence for “a multitude of reasons,” including living away from family and forming new relationships.

She stated that it is unreasonable to expect first-year students “living away from home to know how to navigate the existing systems automatically.”

Hannah, an alias who attends Aberystwyth University, reported that her academic advisor “dismissed” her after another student sexually accosted her twice.

She reported that the professor neither assisted her in obtaining a course extension nor directed her to the university reporting system.

After another student informed her about the service, the 23-year-old disclosed the information to the university’s reporting system rather than the police.

She remarked that the staff was courteous and the system was user-friendly.

Teachers, and particularly the personal instructors assigned to each student, ought to receive instruction on how to address this issue effectively; they should be aware that this is the opportunity to assist the students and provide support.

She stated that this might “have an enormous impact.”

Report and Support, an accessible reporting system administered by an anti-harassment and violence team and sexual violence liaison officers, was stated to be in place at Aberystwyth University.

The university also announced the hiring of an independent sexual violence adviser in an effort to provide “effective, prompt, and compassionate care.”

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