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Universities accused of covering up sexual assault

The Guardian has revealed a climate of cover-up and coercion for sexual assault on university campuses, with a claim that students harassed by staff are even forced into non-disclosure agreements.

Leading lawyers, academics and campaigners on sexual assault have told The Guardian that non-disclosure agreements are allowing staff perpetrators to move to positions at other universities, where they have the ability to commit further harassment.

There is a particular concern that with the marketisation of higher education comes the prioritising of reputation, over student care and welfare.

The University, however, are unaware of the same tactics occurring at Warwick. They commented: “[We are] not aware of the particular set of circumstances in that article having arisen as an issue here at Warwick.”

According to a Freedom of Information request, less than 5 official reports of sexual assault and rape were made to the University in the 2014/15 academic year.

Warwick Student Services have a dedicated page to sexual assault online, including what to do and who to contact in the aftermath of an assault.

According to a Freedom of Information request, less than 5 official reports of sexual assault and rape were made to the University in the 2014/15 academic year; the number of sexual offences made to Warwickshire Police, however, has doubled in the last two years.

For one anonymous student who did report their sexual assault to the University, all that was done was the perpetrator being banned from certain places on campus.

Chloe Wynne, Welfare and Campaigns Officer for Warwick Students’ Union (SU), commented: “We really should not be surprised that non-disclosure agreements plague survivors of harassment and sexual violence in HEIs – however bleak that is to accept.

“Historically, institutions protect themselves before the survivor, and while this is some way nearer to changing, we’re still a long way off the desired situation; a situation where we don’t have 1 in 4 female students sexually assaulted or raped during their time at university, and where their cases aren’t dangerously mishandled when they do have to go through this.”

We really should not be surprised that non-disclosure agreements plague survivors of harassment and sexual violence in HEIs – however bleak that is to accept… It shows us where priorities lie in universities when they resemble corporations more than they do education centres.

Chloe Wynne, Warwick SU’s Welfare and Campaigns Officer

Chloe continued: “This [universities protecting themselves first and foremost] was the case in the 1990s when KCL were embroiled in a case between two of their students, which led to the Zellick Report and subsequent Guidelines that endure on into today, and it’s shameful to see that universities and HE institutions continue to fail student survivors in such embarrassing ways as this.

“It shows us where priorities lie in universities when they resemble corporations more than they do education centres.”

She finished: “I look forward to attending the UUK Conference in November to hear the Task Force’s recommendations for HEIs where sexual violence is concerned, and I’m particularly pleased to have senior management of the University in attendance alongside me.

“I can only hope that they take the recommendations seriously and will continue to work with me to improve the ways in which survivors of sexual violence are treated at Warwick.”

Anyone that wishes to confidentially discuss this story can email news@theboar.org.

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