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Universities Should Have a Mandatory Duty to Record Sexual Violence Claims

By Principal Lawyer, Abuse and Disease Teams

Sexual violence against students on campus has become an increasingly high-profile issue in recent years, and there are growing calls for universities to have a mandatory duty to record all allegations.

Lady Justice Figurine

The UK Government has announced an inquiry into sexual violence at UK universities where, according to NUS figures, one in seven female students has suffered sexual or physical violence.

A new task force to look into – and help tackle – sexual violence at UK universities was announced by Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who said: “This taskforce will ensure that universities have a plan to stamp out violence against women and provide a safe environment for all their students.

“We do not tolerate this behaviour in any part of society and I’m not prepared to let it take place on university campuses unchecked.”

The taskforce is expected to work over the next 12 months and Mr Javid is reported to be considering legislation to put universities under a mandatory duty to report claims of sexual violence against students.

Why Universities Should Always Report Allegations

According to Home Office statistics, only 15% of all survivors of sexual assault report the allegation to the police.

That leaves 85% of survivors who may be suffering in silence, afraid to come forward out of fear that nobody would believe them. That’s why it is absolutely vital for universities – who are under a duty of care to protect students – to always record allegations of sexual violence, offer counselling and support to survivors and reassure them that their allegations will be taken seriously.

Earlier this year, a Guardian investigation found that less than half of the universities they surveyed monitored the extent of sexual violence against students. One in six universities admitted they didn’t have any guidelines on how they can support students who come forward with allegations.

It’s encouraging to see some universities beginning to take the issue of sexual violence seriously, such as Manchester University whose We Get It campaign to tackle abuse on campus has, so far, attracted more than 5,000 signatures.

Raising awareness about the issue is one thing – and Manchester University should be applauded for their recent efforts – but we hope that the new Government taskforce goes further and imposes a mandatory duty upon universities to record and report all allegations of sexual violence.

Kim Harrison is a senior lawyer specialising in abuse claims and head of human rights at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for anyone who has suffered sexual or physical abuse. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and let us know where and when you’d like us to call you.

We assure you that all communication with us will be dealt with in complete confidence.

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