Guidance for victims of sexual misconduct

What you can expect from us

  • We will take you seriously.
  • We will respect your feelings and decisions.
  • We will actively ensure you have access to the best specialist support.
  • We will take all reasonable action relative to your physical safety which might include reviewing accommodation arrangements, adjusting academic timetables, or ensuring safe transport.

What we’ll do

  • We will not report the incident/s to the Police without your permission, except in cases where there is reasonably believed to be a risk to others.
  • We can, however, facilitate your contacting the Police and support you through the process, should you wish to follow this route.
  • We will undertake a conduct risk assessment (Policy on Student Conduct Risk Management (PDF, 212 KB)) in cases where:
    • You have reported the incident to the police (regardless of the outcome), or
    • You do not wish to involve the police but ask the University to take action.
  • We will consider your request for the case to be reviewed under the University’s disciplinary code (Non-Academic Misconduct Policy (Students) (PDF, 1,051 KB)). This is a separate process to the conduct risk assessment and one which investigates breaches of the University’s code of conduct.

Looking after your safety

The University takes very seriously its responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of all students and staff. Every member of our community has a right to be and feel safe. If your physical safety is in danger or if you are in need of immediate medical attention, call the emergency services on 999.

Student Services can provide access to safe accommodation in a crisis. Contact:

  • Student Services directly during weekdays on 01334 462020 and ask to speak to a Wellbeing Advisor.
  • The out of hours security service in evenings and at weekends can connect you with a Student Services representative. Contact 01334 476161.

If you are a student in a hall of residence you can contact your warden.

If sexual misconduct is reported, the University may issue a “no contact” order to the alleged perpetrator, demanding that communication towards you ceases, and further protective considerations, e.g. arranging alternative accommodation, can be offered where necessary.

We would ask you not to engage with the perpetrator of the sexual misconduct in any way. If you are being contacted or harassed by phone or email, contact Student Services. Keep a record of any abusive messages you do receive, so they can be passed on to the Police or University authorities if you have chosen to involve them.

Remember that where reports of sexual misconduct are received, our risk assessment protocol will be undertaken to ensure the safety and protection of all parties. Your protection is critical.

Looking after your physical health

If you have recently experienced sexual violence you may have injuries which need medical attention. These injuries may be internal or external. There may also be a risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Medical assistance is available from your GP, local hospital, or the local NHS sexual health clinic.

Medical professionals will not normally make a report to Police without your permission, however do remember that whatever you tell them can be noted and may be used in any future judicial investigation as evidence. Nevertheless, in order to receive the best treatment, you should provide full details of what happened.

If you require hospital treatment Student Services can arrange for a member of staff to accompany you and will arrange transport.

Supporting your emotional wellbeing

Traumatic experiences can cause significant emotional distress which can endure if not addressed. Student Services offer a confidential, professional service, ensuring that you receive individual and high quality support, both from specially trained advisers and also professional counsellors, if and when appropriate.

What’s more, our trained team of first responders can:

  • Listen.
  • Help you access useful resources.
  • Inform you of your options.
  • Signpost you to a relevant workshop, and/or group or peer support.
  • Refer you to a member of our counselling team.
  • Signpost NHS services or other appropriate services.
  • Offer assistance in negotiating academic allowances and flexibility of deadlines where appropriate and necessary.

Reporting to the Police

If you have experience of sexual misconduct against you which could reasonably be described as criminal, whether recently or in the past, you may want to consider reporting what has happened to you to the Police. Although we shall ensure you have access to unbiased information on options, it is crucially important that this is your decision. None of the help you will be offered from staff in Student Services is conditional on you making a report. We shall still be here to help you.

However, you must be aware that any information which you supply to anybody except your individual legal representative can be sought out and used by the Police in evidence at a later date and so complete confidentiality is difficult to guarantee at this time.

All Police forces in Scotland have Police officers (sexual offences liaison officers – SOLO officers) who are specially trained in responding to sexual offences and who will listen to you with sensitivity.

If you are thinking of reporting to the Police it may help you to know:

  • Your report will be taken seriously and you will be treated professionally and with sensitivity. You may ask to be interviewed by a female or a male officer.
  • As forensic evidence can be easily lost it is important to report as soon as possible or to protect your evidence from any time delay. This can mean that you might put clothes you were wearing into a plastic bag, left unsealed, and try to avoid taking food and/or drink.
  • However, even if some time has passed or it happened a long time ago, it is still worth speaking to the Police and some forensic evidence can be detected for a substantial period of time. A lack of forensic evidence does not necessarily mean ‘no case’.
  • It can take a number of hours to give a statement to the Police but you can ask for this to be taken in a place where you feel comfortable. Student Services have relaxing rooms which we can make free for this purpose if you would like to sit in a neutral space rather than in your flat or at the Police Station.
  • After the statement is noted you may be asked if you are willing to have a medical examination. This would be carried out by a forensic medical examiner. It can be helpful to ask someone you trust or a member of Student Services to accompany you.
  • If the assault has just happened, it is a good idea to take a change of clothes and shoes to the Police Station as the items you are wearing may be required as evidence. If you change your clothing following an attack; take the clothes you were wearing at the time with you in an open plastic bag as forensic evidence may still be gathered.
  • International Students and those who are unfamiliar with Scots Law, it is important that you understand the implications of filing a Police report in Scotland. In this country the decision as to whether or not to proceed with the investigation lies with the Procurator Fiscal and not with you. It may still go ahead even if you later wish to withdraw your statement. Therefore, it is important that you are sure that you want to file a report before you proceed.
  • If you are considering reporting what has happened to you to the Police and want further information or to talk the decision through with someone, you can contact Student Services on 01334 462 020 to talk it through with an expert adviser. You may also wish to speak to a specialist organisation; these are listed in the Resources section.
  • If you decide to contact the Police without first contacting Student Services, call the Police non-emergency number (101) or, if urgent, dial 999 and state that this is in relation to a sexual assault. Ask for one of their specially trained officers. If you would prefer to initially speak to a Police Officer somewhere other than your place of residence, ask for this when you call.
  • Please refer to the Scottish government’s document:Information and help after rape and sexual assault for full details of the criminal and legal procedures involved in making a report to the Police.

The University’s duty to protect and support

The University takes very seriously its responsibility to protect students and staff from gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct (see the sexual misconduct policy statement) and the institutional duty is overseen by the Office of the Proctor.

All investigations under risk assessments involve both parties being invited to provide a statement of events, to present witnesses, or to provide other evidence. Investigations will be discreetly and sensitively handled with information only shared with those who need to know to resolve the matter.

It is important to note that, should you decide that you do not wish to report an allegation of sexual misconduct to the Police, even when it would be reasonable to consider it criminal, our ability to proceed with an in-house disciplinary investigation depends on the behaviours and circumstances of each case and so discipline may not be possible. The University will still, however, provide you with counselling and support.

Where criminal actions require investigation, the Police process will have to be allowed to continue, unimpeded by University authorities, until completion. However, in accordance with the University’s duty of care, during the Police investigation, our policy on Student Conduct Risk Management will be used to ensure the safety and protection of all parties. At the conclusion of any external judicial processes, the risk assessment will be reviewed and may recommend, as a separate procedure, that the University considers disciplinary action in relation to breaches of the University’s code of discipline. This may include any additional breaches identified which may be separate from the original allegation.

If you bring forward evidence indicating that another member of our community could be a danger to other members, the University, in exercising its duty of care to others, reserves the right to take the case forward to the Police, even if you had originally thought you did not wish to proceed to the Police. Whilst this may seem that we are breaching your confidence, we must consider the broader safety of the community.