Image Credit: Arian Kriesch
Something that I noticed last year when reporting my own sexual assault to the University, is that the Regulation 7, which was in place at the time, was painfully difficult to comprehend.
Regulation 7 was outdated, not fit for purpose and lumped ‘Sexual Misconduct’ (as the University calls it) with completely different issues such as academic misconduct. This not only made the process more difficult but served to degrade the trauma I, and so many others, have experienced.
The previous version of Regulation 7 therefore significantly hindered the University’s ability to handle my report. After the finding of sexual assault had been made in my case, the provisions I thought would have been put in place as a bare minimum, weren’t put in place at all.
The simple provision such as a safe space on campus, a place I can go knowing that the student who assaulted me wouldn’t be there, wasn’t offered or made available. Regulation 7, the documentation that was supposed to be designed to help me in that moment, was, in this case, doing the exact opposite.
The changes that are coming in with the new Regulation 7 do symbolise a step forward but this desperately needs to be the first step of many. There is no solution within the new regulation; it is simply fixing the cracks that basic administrative faults had left in an outdated procedure which should never have been allowed to exist in the first place.
The rape culture which is engrained in universities across the UK isn’t going to stop if written change is the only change which is going to be made. The University needs to consider more specialist ways of dealing with ‘Sexual Misconduct’ on campus, including tackling attitudes that are held towards it. The introduction of the Sexual Violence Liaison Officer’s (SVLO) is a great step forwards, however, the reporting process itself needs to improve, as well as its continuous advertisement to students.
The University needs to be more transparent about the options available to a student reporting an assault. Processes I had thought would be basic protocol were nowhere to be seen. These concerns were listened to by the Student Conduct and Respect team but I was left with the impression that the department was overstretched and under-resourced to truly implement the changes that are necessary.
A massive flaw in the system is that no written or easily accessible information is given to the reporting student. Regulations are difficult to comprehend and sources of support are scattered amongst a matrix of web pages, all of which the student is left having to actively search for. This is an extremely difficult thing to do, especially when your brain is in the process of recovering from trauma.
The providing of written information throughout this process is something I am trying to work with the University on, in order to stop issues, such as having to give multiple statements (as I did) from happening again. This is something I have been trying to work with the University to create, but it just isn’t happening as quickly as it should.
The University needs to be making sure that the Student Conduct and Respect Team is sufficiently supported. They head up the General Misconduct of students and they are a fundamental aspect to making sure that students are kept safe, and feel safe on this campus.
The work that the team is trying to do is so important to improving student experience and wellbeing, but it just isn’t happening soon enough or with enough student consultation. Regulation 7 hasn’t been working well for a very long time so why was it only this year that it was finally reformed? Talking to staff, it feels like they want to make changes and improvements, but there simply aren’t the resources for it. It is frustrating to watch, especially considering the size of this issue and how many students it has the potential to affect.
Student’s don’t get a clear or easy opportunity to give feedback about their experience during reporting under Regulation 7. FemSoc is currently circling a form to capture student’s experiences of consent talks, sexual assault and spiking, and the reporting processes at the University of York, which I urge you to go and complete. The input from students via this form is going to be fundamental to the work that is being done to improve the reporting process for students at York.
Now is the time for us to demand change because it is evident that the University will not do this itself. I am optimistic about the new Regulation 7 and I am optimistic that further change can happen but this change needs to happen sooner rather than later. Student input and influence will be vital to driving the University in the right direction.
It is too late to change my experience of reporting sexual assault to the University, but it isn’t too late to change the experience of future students.
*You can read more about these issues in: *https://nouse.co.uk/2020/10/14/university-processes-and-decisions-are-perpetuating--an-unsafe-environment?fbclid=IwAR0R_tJqCtt89f3xhkOhXcCKJPqOvxYhJHz-phsG9mtdJ2JqvAvAN0h0zi8
If you wish to report a sexual assault or any other form of student or staff misconduct to the University you can do so at reportandsupport.york.ac.uk/
If you wish to seek support for a sexual assault, either historic or recent you can get into contact with the Universities Sexual Violence Liaison Officers atwww.york.ac.uk/students/health/advice/sexual-violence/