Sexual assault at Durham University, knowing the facts and what to do if affected

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Over the Summer, the University published statistics relating to Epiphany/Easter (Spring/Summer) term disciplinary hearings. Disciplinary notices updates are posted a few times each year and inform the community about action taken against students for a variety of reasons.

Durham’s Senate Discipline Committee considered seven separate student cases concerning a “serious breach” of the University’s misconduct policies. This has resulted in two students permanently expelled from the university for a “serious breach” of the University’s Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy.

One of the students has also received a fixed-term exclusion as an Alum. Two students will face a fixed-term exclusion period with additional sanctions: one has received a no contact order and the other was recommended to take “relevant educational training”.

In unrelated incidents, two more students were excluded from this year’s congregation and have received fixed-term exclusions as Alumni, also for violating the Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy.

Since the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, there have now been a total of nine student expulsions, four of which have been as a result of “a serious breach” of the University’s sexual misconduct and violence policy. There have also been nine student exclusions, including five for sexual misconduct.

In 2021, Durham vowed to crack down on racism and sexual assault. As part of these efforts, last year the University increased finding for specialist counsellors and hired two former police officers as full-time professional investigators of misconduct, one of whom has particular experience in cases of sexual violence. Durham is the first UK university to have multiple investigators and one of only three – alongside Bath and Bristol – with any at all.

Since the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, there have now been a total of nine student expulsions, four of which have been as a result of “a serious breach” of the University’s sexual misconduct and violence policy

In a statement published on their website, the University’s Senate Discipline Committee said, “As part of our drive to ensure we create a respectful and inclusive University culture, we expect staff and students to adhere to the University’s values on behaviour and our regulations on conduct.

“If a student breaks the law or breaches University regulations, we take swift and decisive action. This approach has seen an increase in cases reported to us, but we see this as our community growing in confidence that we will act appropriately in response to such reports; and we are resolved that it will not deter us from our commitment.”

On the ‘Recent Disciplinary Notices’ webpage, the following statement reads: “Sexual violence and misconduct – We take reports of bullying and harassment, hate incidents, sexual misconduct and domestic abuse seriously. All staff, students and visitors to our campus are able to use our online tool to report any form of unwanted behaviour reportandsupport.durham.ac.uk  ”

The University also has a dedicated Sexual Misconduct & Violence: Prevention and Response section on its website. At a college level, “You can disclose incidents of sexual misconduct and violence to your College Student Support Office. They will provide you with support and refer to you specialist help as appropriate. They can help you consider your reporting options including reporting to the University to initiate the process within the Sexual Violence & Misconduct Policy.”

Students can also use the Durham University Counselling Service: “Our self-referral mechanism for all students with any issue is to send out a Self-Referral Questionnaire. The information provided on the form will direct you towards the more appropriate support. If you indicate ‘sexual misconduct and violence’ on the form you will be offered an appointment with a short timescale with one of our counsellors.” More information is available by calling 0191 33 42200 or looking online: www.dur.ac.uk/counselling.service/sexualviolence/

“We take reports of bullying and harassment, hate incidents, sexual misconduct and domestic abuse seriously.”

durham university

For support from a fellow student, there is Nightline: “Nightline is a confidential, non-advisory, non-directive listening service, run by students, for students from 9pm to 7am in term-time. Students are trained in general listening skills; they are not trained in specialist support.”

In addition to these options within the Durham University environment, there are external opportunities to get support. A list of external support options is listed on the University website. This is available at: https://www.dur.ac.uk/sexualviolence/getsupport/external/

When it comes to reporting an incident, the University advises: “Following an incident of sexual misconduct and violence – which can take many forms, including but not limited to rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, image-based sexual abuse, stalking, and domestic abuse – you have options. Students and staff may choose to disclose the incident to a member of staff to seek support.

“This is not the same as making a formal report to the University for the purposes of initiating the procedures within the Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy. You have the choice of what to do next and can choose to 1) make a report to the Police, 2) make a report to the University, or 3) seek support only.” The webpage for ‘Reporting an Incident’ and relevant information is: https://www.dur.ac.uk/sexualviolence/report/

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