Cambridge in major revamp of sexual assault policy

University to change policy in major U-turn

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Under the new guidelines, victims will be able to report incidents of sexual violence directly to officials at Cambridge, rather than only to the police.

As with many UK universities, Cambridge’s old policy followed advice set out in the 1994 Zellick report, which cautioned against investigating “serious” criminal offences internally.

Campaigners in the university, particularly from the Women’s Campaign, have criticised the policy as being inadequate for the needs of students.

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A 2014 CUSU survey revealed the extent of sexual assault in the university.

A 2014 CUSU survey reported that 30% of students had experienced sexual assault, with the majority of such incidents going unreported. A further 77% of those questioned had suffered sexual harassment.

The NUS has welcomed the move, but there are still questions around how the university will investigate allegations and under what circumstances.

When pushed on this matter, a spokesman for the university was unable to specify the details of the procedure at this time. He said: “We regularly review our policies to ensure they are in keeping with our aim to offer students the best possible support.

“As a result, the university has revised its disciplinary code of conduct so that it encompasses harassment, including sexual assault. We worked closely with student representatives to produce a new set of guidelines and to signpost the support that already exists across the university and the colleges. In addition, the university sports committee has agreed to develop codes of conduct to support gender equality and ensure exemplary standards of behaviour.”

Talking to the Guardian, CUSU’s Women’s Officer, Charlotte Chorley, described the change as an “important first step” in ensuring adequate policies were in place across all colleges within the university.

She went on to say that The Women’s Campaign “have a key priority this year to get policies in all colleges, and it is a good step that the university is taking this into consideration – even if it has taken far too long”.

The change resembles a practice in many US colleges, where university officials conduct enquiries themselves.

While details are yet to emerge, this announcement represents a dramatic change to the existing system.