Fourth year denied extenuating circumstances despite being raped
She is now campaigning to include sexual assault in the uni’s policy
A Brum student was denied extenuating circumstances by the uni even though she was raped on her year abroad.
The fourth year, who we have not named, was assaulted and then failed to meet her deadlines after her application for an extension was rejected.
Despite containing documentation from two medical professionals and a trauma therapist, the application was still not approved and no explanation was given regarding the decision.
After the incident occurred late last year on an organised tour in Queensland, the student put in an application for extenuating circumstances at university in Australia, but had no response for around five weeks.
The board eventually responded, rejecting the application despite having the relevant documentation.
On returning to the UK, she contacted The University of Birmingham about the issue, expecting sufficient support considering the circumstances, but she was told there was nothing that could be done.
After the student had left England, the university in Australia changed their decision, but this was not seen until a much later date as the student had accepted the first rejected decision as a final answer and was trying to settle back into life at home.
The university of Birmingham only gave the option of taking the year off of the students transcript, even though high marks were achieved in passed modules.
After a meeting with welfare the decision still stands, as there is nothing written into The Code of Practice on extenuating circumstances directly concerning rape and assault.
Now she is campaigning for rape and sexual assault to have its own clause within extenuating circumstances so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
The student told The Tab: “I feel as though the University of Birmingham has let me down. Speaking out after a rape or sexual assault is difficult enough because there is still a large stigma around the topic, but it’s a worse feeling to have spoken out and have had nothing done about it.
“You assume you will be sufficiently supported, but my case was passed from person to person within my department, as no one knew what the protocol for this situation was.
“This resulted in my private medical documentation being shown to countless people, which is not OK and has not been a pleasant experience. It was with my permission but I didn’t exactly want many people seeing it. If there was already a protocol in place for rape and assault this never would have happened.”
The Code of Practice on extenuating circumstances currently includes significant illness, death of a family member, absence by paternity leave, financial hardship and jury duty – but officially contains nothing about being sexually assaulted or raped.
The mental effects of rape and assault are devastating on the victim, causing long-term issues which would have a large impact on a student’s ability to study, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, hyper-vigilance, depression and disturbed sleep.
She has now started an online petition, lobbying the University to give rape and sexual assault its own clause within extenuating circumstances.
She added: “This shouldn’t be happening and I want to prevent it from happening again to another student. 44 per cent of Brum students anonymously admitted to having been assaulted in a recent survey, and I guarantee there are so many more.
“I’m not sharing my story because I think it is unique, I’m sharing it because it is not.
“Rape and assault should have its own clause. The mental effects of an assault or rape are no less severe than bereavement, you can’t even compare the two.”
The student expressed her hopes for the survey, which has been signed by over 800 people so far.
She added: “The University needs to acknowledge this is a greater problem than they think, or than they’re choosing to realise. Students are afraid to come forward for fear nothing will be done, causing them to suffer in silence and have their academic performance affected unnecessarily.
“I’m not willing to sit back and let this happen again and again. I’m campaigning for change, and I hope other students of the University will stand with me.”
A University of Birmingham spokesperson said: “The University of Birmingham takes the safety and wellbeing of its students and staff extremely seriously and this includes allegations of sexual harassment and rape. While we can’t comment on individual cases the University and the Guild of Students has a robust joint approach to tackling sexual harassment and supporting students or staff affected by such issues.
“Our Code of Practice on extenuating circumstances does not contain an exhaustive list of what might be treated as an extenuating circumstance, but rape or sexual assault are examples of the type of exceptional and unforeseen events which can be considered as an extenuating circumstance.
“Students can find out more about the full range of University support services and resources by visiting the Student Services support website. There is a specialist Harassment Advice Service that is free, confidential and open to anyone, staff or student, who wants to talk about harassment.
“The Guild of Students’ Advice & Representation Centre has specialist trained advisors students can speak to in confidence.”
The petition is now live online and you can sign it here.