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The University takes sexual harassment and violence very seriously

Sexual harassment and violence on campus

On behalf of the higher education sector, Universities UK recently published recommendations on dealing with violence against women. 

At Exeter, we take sexual harassment and violence very seriously. While the vast majority of students treat each other with dignity and respect, unfortunately incidences of sexual harassment and violence do occur on campus. Therefore, we are taking on board the recommendations made by Universities UK. During the 2015/16 academic year, we also convened a taskforce to review our approach to these issues.

The taskforce was made up of members of staff from across the University, Guild/FXU, the police and local community organisations and carefully considered four key areas and made recommendations on each area, as summarised below.

Awareness raising

The taskforce made recommendations in relation to raising awareness about the boundaries of sexual consent amongst students, the promotion of positive behaviours and our responsibility to inform students of expectations for behaviour. It was agreed that awareness raising should be done in partnership with the Students’ Guild and FXU.

Dealing with disclosures

When somebody shares information about an incident of sexual harassment or violence that has affected them, it is known as ‘making a disclosure’. The taskforce considered what action the University should take to support disclosure, make students feel safe and ensure that appropriate actions are taken as a result.

The taskforce made recommendations to ensure that the University follows best practice confidentiality protocols and to introduce a University-wide approach to dealing with incidents of sexual harassment and violence. Suitable training opportunities for staff are also going to be introduced to ensure they have the skills and understanding to support students who disclose an incident.

Internal investigatory and discipline procedures

The taskforce considered our current investigation and disciplinary procedures for sexual violence and harassment and made recommendations to adopt a new sexual assault support and investigation policy which is currently being finalised. This policy will enable the University to undertake disciplinary investigations regardless of whether the police are conducting their own enquiries which has not been possible in the past. The University will also continue to work closely with organisations such as the police and Devon/Cornwall Rape Crisis to ensure there appropriate networks of support for those affected by sexual harassment or violence.

Data capture and management

It is important to capture data on incidents of sexual harassment or violence to enable the University to monitor if there is a rising trend. This data may also indicate whether students feel safe to disclose incidents. The taskforce recommended that where possible, and within data protection guidelines, we will work across the University and with external organisations to gather data on an annual basis which will be reported to our governing body.

What happens next?

These recommendations are being taken forward and new procedures, training and educational tools will be available in the coming months. If you have any questions about the work of the sexual harassment and violence taskforce, please contact Jamie Horsley, Head of Student Services.

Where to go for help

If you have been affected by sexual harassment or violence, please see the Wellbeing pages for guidance and support.

Date: 1 November 2016

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