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Is there a sexual assault epidemic at UEA?

The highest number of reported incidents of rape, assault and harassment at a university took place at UEA over the past five years.

135 incidents were reported at UEA, an ITV News investigation found.

UEA said the higher number signifies a positive reaction to their assault and harassment awareness campaigns.

However, the accuracy of these statistics has been thrown into question, with claims there is not a clear reporting procedure.

University of Surrey had the second highest number of reported instances, with 40. In response to the disparity between reported incidents at other universities, a UEA spokesperson said they are confident the much higher level of reports is an indication students feel confident to report such incidents.

“An increased rate of reporting is a positive sign that people feel more confident about reporting improper sexual conduct.

“It is generally recognised that when organisations take steps to raise awareness of improper sexual conduct and encourage individuals to make reports that this leads to a significant spike in the number of complaints,” they said.

UEA expresses a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment on campus with a Never OK scheme, through partnering with the students’ union.

In the three years prior to the scheme the university received 38 complaints of sexual improper sexual conduct. Since the implementation of Never OK, the level of complaints rose by 97.

The university said: “It is therefore possible to see a connection between the complaint volume and the impact of our activities around Changing the Culture.

The University of Cambridge received 173 complaints in the nine months following the introduction of its Breaking the Silence campaign, similar to UEA’s Never OK campaign.

The university said, due to the nature of anonymous complaints, a single incident can result in multiple reports.

“It would therefore not be accurate to regard the total number of complaints as being equivalent to the total number of incidents. Particularly important in this regard is the fact that witnesses to potentially improper conduct are able to make anonymous reports and so an incident with multiple witnesses could generate a number of complaint reports.”

Revolt Against Sexual Assault is a national campaign working to expose the level of sexual assault and harassment at university.

The campaign’s survey, in collaboration with The Student Room surveyed 4,491 students and recent graduates across 153 institutions.

62 percent had experienced sexual violence. Six percent of those who experienced sexual assault or harassment, reported their experience of sexual violence to the university. Only two percent of sexual violence victims felt both able to report it to their university and then satisfied with the reporting process.

SU Welfare Community and Diversity Officer India Edwards said: “If you look at the Freedom of Information requests that this was based on, you’ll find that most Universities just returned figures based on their equivalent of UEA SSS- but UEA gave figures back that looked at incidents reported to Security, University HR and SSS. Not only does that make UEA look like an outlier, it also could mean double counting of the same incidents.

“This kind of statistical mess is exactly why we’ve been calling for a proper integrated single reporting scheme. But generally we should never be afraid of high reporting rates given what we know about the true scale of sexual harassment and assault, any increase in recorded incidents is far more likely to mean better confidence in reporting than it is more incidents.”

Revolt Against Sexual Assault’s survey said 56 percent of students did not report as they thought it ‘wasn’t serious enough,’ 35 percent felt too ashamed and 29 percent didn’t know how to make a report.


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March 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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