These unis won’t punish you for reporting a sexual assault while breaking Covid rules

Five universities couldn’t rule disciplinary action out

There’s a growing fear that students who broke coronavirus rules at the time when they were sexually assaulted may face repercussions after reporting the assault.

Dr Nina Burrowes is the founder of The Consent Collective, a charity aiming to educate uni students about consent and to support victims of sexual assault. “We’re certainly hearing people reluctant to report because they were breaking the lockdown.

“Because you don’t want to get in trouble for breaking the rules. Like you weren’t supposed to be there, or you were with someone you weren’t supposed to be with,” Burrowes said.

So, The Tab asked 44 UK universities: Will students who report sexual misconduct be liable for disciplinary action if they have been found to be breaking Covid rules?

Despite being contacted twice for comment, only 17 universities replied.

12 were able to confirm that they would not punish students who were breaking coronavirus rules at the time when they reported an alleged sexual assault.

Those universities were Cambridge, Durham, Warwick, Manchester, Newcastle, St Andrews, Liverpool John Moores, Loughborough, Lancaster, Manchester Metropolitan, Reading and Southampton.

The five other unis all expressed a lack of tolerance for sexual assault / harassment within the university community, but did not categorically rule out the possibility that disciplinary action might be taken if someone reported a sexual assault but was later found to be breaking coronavirus rules.

Those universities were Edinburgh, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and Coventry.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh University said: “We take any complaint regarding sexual assault or harassment very seriously and each is investigated individually with all relevant considerations looked into.”

A spokesperson for The University of Bristol said: “Despite the ongoing Covid restrictions we encourage all students to report any allegations of sexual misconduct to ensure they can access appropriate support and advice. Providing this is our priority.”

A spokesperson for Coventry said: “While we take Covid-19 restrictions very seriously, we are also mindful of avoiding barriers to reporting sexual misconduct, so we would always work cooperatively with students and colleagues to ensure that students feel able to report incidents to us with the reassurance that we would take a compassionate and common sense approach should the incident have involved a breach of coronavirus restrictions.”

A spokesperson for the University of Birmingham said: “Our key concern is that we comprehensively support students regardless of where the alleged assault took place.”

A spokesperson for The University of Liverpool said: “Behaviour that amounts to harassment, abuse or assault is not tolerated within the University of Liverpool community and we would always encourage our students and staff to report such incidents to us. The University has a Report + Support tool for students and staff who would like to seek advice and support for any incident of bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence, hate crimes or discrimination. Our key concern is that we comprehensively support students and staff regardless of where the alleged incident took place.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story contact Refuge on their free 24/7 helpline 0808 2000 247 or contact Rape Crisis online for a free confidential chat helpline.

The Tab’s Do Better campaign is putting a focus on the rising student sexual assault problem. Universities need to do more to support students and the culture around sexual assault needs to change.

Read more from The Tab’s Do Better campaign here:

• All universities have been told to urgently review their sexual assault policies

• Investigation: Why do just one in 14 students report sexual assault cases to their uni?

• Sexual assault reports at UK universities have more than doubled in four years