UK (Parliament Politic Magazine) – A survivor of sexual assault, identified as Lily (pseudonym), has disclosed that she encountered no assistance from her university following the traumatic incident. Instead, she found herself pressured to settle tuition fees amounting to £9,000 after taking a leave of absence. Lily, 23, had been in her final year at Cardiff University when she experienced the assault in March 2021.
In the distressing process, Lily had to recount her harrowing experiences to the university’s finance team, aggravating the emotional toll of the situation. Cardiff University’s Vice-Chancellor, Wendy Larner, has expressed a desire to address the concerns raised by students who have been affected by sexual violence.
Lily Reports the Incident to Police
Amidst this, four students have voiced their apprehension about the insufficient information regarding support services, stating that they feel let down by the institution’s staff, describing the experience as a perceived failure on their part. Expressing a sense of betrayal, Lily conveyed that she felt “let down” by the university, attributing what she perceived as “unnecessary stress” to her already challenging situation.
She emphasized that if the university does provide support, it is not effectively communicated to the students. In her call for improved awareness, Lily suggested the use of stickers in toilet cubicles to explain the available assistance, noting, “You need to be spoon-fed. When you’ve just been sexually assaulted, your brain is like a puddle of mush.” Lily took the step of reporting the incident to the police, and she revealed that the alleged perpetrator was interviewed. However, charges were not filed due to a lack of evidence.
Following assistance from two of her lecturers who facilitated coursework extensions, Lily decided to take an interruption of study. This choice led to the necessity of retaking six exams the following academic year, with an agreed fixed fee of £150 per exam. However, upon her return in 2022, she was shocked to be informed that she owed £9,000 for the entire academic year.
No Recent Figures
Receiving threatening letters about potential expulsion from her course if the fees were not paid, Lily described this period as one of the most challenging in her life. Instead of receiving support from the university, she felt subjected to persistent pressure to settle the outstanding fees.
Despite numerous emails, it wasn’t until Lily went into explicit detail about her traumatic experience to the finance team that the emails ceased. Throughout this process, she did not receive an apology or any form of support; the finance team simply stopped their communication.
Lily and other affected students expressed unawareness of the Disclosure Response Team (DRT), responsible for student support and guidance. According to Freedom of Information (FOI) responses, the DRT received 691 reports of sexual misconduct during the academic years from 2017 to 2021. However, the university clarified that it lacks data on sexual violence reports both before 2017 and after 2021.
The university emphasized that these disclosures were not exclusively linked to members of the university community, suggesting that the reported cases of sexual misconduct were not always perpetrated by individuals within the university.
One Disappointment After the Other
The university acknowledged a portion of cases where the perpetrator remains unidentified, making it challenging to pursue further action. Additionally, there is a proportion where the victim does not know the identity of the perpetrator, adding complexity to the resolution process. The university stated that it is not always possible to follow up on these cases.
In response to inquiries about the number of expulsions resulting from sexual violence between 2017 and 2023, the university reported “less than five” each year. Eleanor, a fourth-year student at 21 (pseudonym), disclosed that she was sexually assaulted by another student during her second year in June 2022. Despite the traumatic experience, Eleanor opted not to report the incident, citing discouragement from others who had faced similar situations and received no resolution.
Lily expressed astonishment at the reported number of cases, deeming them “staggering,” especially considering the well-established fact that reporting is often a minority occurrence. She highlighted the isolating experience victims often feel, emphasizing that the disclosed numbers illustrate that survivors are not alone in their experiences.