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Queen's University Belfast does not record sexual violence against students

By Claire Cromie

Published 29/05/2015

Queen’s University Belfast
Queen’s University Belfast
Elizabeth Ramey
Ione Wells

Queen's University does not record allegations of rape, sex assault or sexual harassment reported by students, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The Belfast institution has no system for monitoring the extent of sexual violence against its students.

It emerged after The Guardian sent Freedom of Information requests to the 24 Russell Group universities across the UK.

Seven, including Queen's, said they do not systematically record allegations. Queen's also does not record investigations, either internal or external.

Students' Union councillor and former welfare officer Sarah Wright said she was disgusted but not surprised.

"Such crimes can have a hugely detrimental impact on students' lives and the wider community," she said.

"The university cannot be under any illusion, whilst failing to record such allegations, that they can begin to effectively tackle on-campus lad and rape culture."

Last year the National Union of Students revealed one in four students in the UK have suffered inappropriate touching and groping, and that 60% of students were unaware of any university codes of conduct that prohibit such behaviour.

The NUS 2010 Hidden Marks report found one in seven had experienced serious sexual or physical violence and 68% had been sexually harassed.

When asked if Queen's had guidelines for students who wish to report a complaint of rape, sexual assault or harassment to the university or police, the university referred to its anti-bullying and harassment policy.

It said: "(The policy) includes support and defining processes for reporting instances of harassment, including sexual harassment.

"This policy is currently under review, and the university is working to have accompanying guidelines available for the 2015-16 academic year.

"Guidance for students regarding allegations of rape, sexual assault or harassment are available on the student wellbeing website."

Miss Wright said she would raise the issue with Queen's: "The university needs to implement, before the start of the next academic year, a dedicated, widely publicised and well-resourced mechanism for responding to, and supporting, students of all genders and non-binary individuals who have suffered rape, sexual assault and harassment whilst at Queen's University."

The issue of student sex assaults has been highlighted in recent weeks by two young women at Oxford University.

Elizabeth Ramey attempted to challenge Oxford in court for what she saw as its failure to properly investigate when she alleged she was raped by a fellow student in 2011.

Ione Wells (20) gave up the lifelong anonymity victims of sexual assault are entitled to in order to launch the #NotGuilty campaign, with a powerful open letter to the man who sexually assaulted her as she walked home.

One in five of the Russell Group universities admitted they have no specific guidelines on how to report such allegations in confidence.

Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff and Manchester universities and King's College London said they did not have such guidelines.

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: "Russell Group universities take the issue of any kind of harassment, abuse or violence against women extremely seriously indeed. Our institutions have robust policies and procedures in place to deal with these matters, because ensuring student safety and wellbeing is extremely important to us."

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