The University of Birmingham has been criticised for its response to rape and sexual assault complaints, Nathan Clarke reports
The University of Birmingham has been heavily criticised for allegedly refusing to investigate various rape complaints from students.
One recent graduate twice asked the University to launch a formal investigation into her complaints, having been allegedly raped in university-owned student accommodation, but was told that, since there were no procedures in place to deal with complaints of this nature, no action would be taken.
In a similar incident, another graduate revealed to The Guardian that the University had refused to investigate her complaint since the incident had taken place in privately rented accommodation in Selly Oak. She told The Guardian that ‘it didn’t feel like the University believed me… it felt like they were blaming me because I brought [my alleged attacker] home.’
She also commented on how UoB counsellors lacked specialist training to deal with the trauma and stress she experienced after the incident and that her grades ‘really suffered’ as a result.
The End Violence Against Women campaign, a coalition of specialist women’s support services and activists described the University of Birmingham’s stance on off-campus sexual assault as a ‘glaring gap in protection.’
In an interview with The Guardian, one of the victims claims to have gone to her personal tutor for help but, upon revealing the incident had taken place in a privately rented accommodation, the tutor ‘clapped his hands and said, ‘ah well, we can’t do anything.’
However, the University of Birmingham has issued a statement in which it stated that the safety and wellbeing of their students is ‘of paramount importance’ and that they have ‘invested significantly in taking a proactive approach to supporting students who have suffered sexual abuse.’
Millie Gibbins, Welfare and Community Officer at the Guild, has formed a group of both staff and students to review the ‘University Code of Conduct’ and ensure the system is ‘fit for purpose for all students.’
She told Redbrick that she will also review the ‘You Report, We Support’ tool in light of recent incidents which have ‘highlighted some gaps in the process.’
The University of Birmingham commended the courage of all victims of sexual assault and rape for coming forward. The University apologised ‘if any student [felt] that the support offered by the university fell short of their expectations.’
In response, they pledged to open a dedicated suite later this year to provide support to students who may have been the victims of sexual assault. The statement stressed that academic staff across the university are asked to ‘recognise and refer’ students to relevant bodies to ensure they receive the right support and advice.
A report published last year by Revolt Sexual Assault revealed that out of 4,500 students surveyed in the UK, 62% had experienced sexual violence in line with the definition used by Rape Crisis; with 8% of female respondents saying they had been raped at University.