Reclaim the Campus was formed after one of the co-founders, Nky, realised that while sexual misconduct training courses were being cancelled due to the pandemic, such incidents were still taking place. This shows that universities often do not prioritise tackling sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct is prevalent within Higher Education institutions (Revolt Report found that 62% of student participants had experienced sexual violence at university), as it is in the general population with one in 20 twenty women having experienced rape in the UK. Nevertheless, while the #MeToo movement highlighted this issue, universities did little to tackle it. After months of researching 41 universities within the UK, we gained an insight into the scale of the issue and how universities attempt to deal with it, or, in some cases, brush it under the carpet. We established key recommendations for universities to address the concealment, lack of accountability and transparency around issues of rape culture and sexual misconduct within Higher Education.
Whilst we acknowledge the importance of universities adopting a holistic approach to sexual misconduct, we have split our recommendations into three categories, for clarity: prevention, report and support.
To prevent sexual misconduct at universities, we recommend that universities have a specific policy on sexual misconduct with a clear definition of sexual misconduct (e.g. the Pinsent Masons definitions). These policies should be intersectional by taking into account converging factors that can impact one’s experience, such as ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Gathering all the relevant information onto a policy can deter criminal behaviour or at least impede further victimisation of the survivor after the fact. Policies outline what constitutes acceptable behaviour and give institutions guidelines that they themselves must follow. Moreover, in order to actually prevent sexual misconduct from happening each university should collect, analyse and release related data. This transparency would facilitate an in-depth understanding of the barriers to reporting and would pinpoint where improvements are needed. Maintaining intersectionality is also crucial in this data collection and analysis, to understand whether specific groups are more likely to experience such violence and to offer them targeted support.
To improve reporting, we recommend universities clearly outline in their sexual misconduct policies the procedures students need to go through to report an incident. Additionally, they should also outline a clear set of sanctions that perpetrators will face depending on the degrees of severity of the offence. Along with this, we recommend universities appropriately advertise support and reporting resources so that every student knows where they can get help. We also recommend universities to have a Rape and Sexual Abuse helpline number on all student cards so that students can freely consult expert help. In hand with this, while the majority of universities have a reporting tool, we strongly advocate for each university to instate one that is specifically for instances of sexual misconduct.
To support survivors, we recommend universities clearly outline the available support resources within their sexual misconduct policies and make them accessible via their website. In addition, it is recommended that universities employ Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) (at least one male and one female) to provide appropriate support to victims.
Our recommendations center around survivors’ wellbeing. Therefore, within our three prongs of recommendations, universities may prevent some instances from occurring, provide students with clear and appropriate reporting procedures, and would support survivors throughout the whole process. In hand with this, we highlight how policy change cannot singlehandedly tackle sexual misconduct issues and experiences. Policies must be properly enforced and overall there needs to be a cultural change. Everyone should have a clear understanding of, and respect consent, whilst also having zero-tolerance for sexually inappropriate behaviour. We believe bystander intervention and positive peer pressure could help with this, by stepping in when someone is being harassed on a night out, or explaining why rape jokes aren’t funny.
The full report will be available on the 17th of June 2021 at 5pm. Join our online report launch event on zoom!
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/183979070285002/?ref=newsfeed