Bristol Uni sign pledge to not silence sexual assault victims using non-disclosure agreements

It becomes the 21st uni to publicly agree not to use ‘gagging orders’

Bristol Uni has signed a pledge to end the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence complaints on sexual assault, harassment and bullying.

It is one of  21 universities to sign the Can’t Buy My Silence pledge so far.

The growing campaign has been supported by Higher Education Minister Michelle Donelan, who said that she is “determined to see this shabby practice stamped out on our campuses”.

A non-disclosure agreement is a legally binding contract that establishes a confidential relationship.

By signing, the party or parties agree that sensitive information they may obtain will not be made available to any others.

A 2020 BBC News investigation found nearly a third of universities had used non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence student complaints about sexual misconduct, bullying and harassment.

Bristol Uni says it does not use NDAs to silence people who come forward to raise complaints, describing non-disclosure agreements as a “barrier to reporting issues for some people”.

The Cant Buy my Silence campaign is committed to ending this misuse of NDAs to buy victims’ silence.

“NDAs don’t protect the victim”, their website explains.

“They protect an employer’s reputation and the career of the perpetrator, not the victim who can be protected by a simple one-sided confidentiality clause.”

Michelle Donelan said: “[NDAs] silence victims, protect abusers, and support a culture where sexual assault and violence can hide”.

A spokesperson for the University of Bristol said: “Our University is committed to creating a welcoming, positive, supportive and safe environment in which our students and staff can work, live and study.

“We do not tolerate sexual harassment, abuse or misconduct, or other forms of harassment and bullying within our community. When this occurs, it is vital that victim-survivors are supported and able to speak out about their experiences.

“We know that the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) can be a barrier to reporting issues for some people. It is already our University policy not to use them to silence those who come forward to raise complaints. The University supports the #CantBuyMySilence pledge endorsed by the Department for Education.

“Any student or member of staff who considers they are experiencing harassment, bullying or victimisation can seek help and report the problem using our Report and Support tool.”

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