A student says she feels let down because of the alleged lack of support she has received from her university after being raped.
The first-year student at the University of the West of England (UWE) was raped by another student from another university earlier this year and said she contacted UWE to get help the day after.
However, the 19-year-old claims she has now been told by her university that it doesn’t offer any specialist support for rape victims and that she has been encouraged to get counselling privately elsewhere.
She has also claimed that, following an appointment arranged with wellbeing services, it took several days for the university to check on her to make sure she was okay.
The University of the West of England has said it wasn’t able to comment on the details of the case, but that its dedicated safeguarding and wellbeing staff are working closely with the student concerned to offer her support and guidance during this difficult time.
The university has said wellbeing and safety of students and staff is their number one priority and that a comprehensive package of wellbeing support is available to all students all year-round, including a range of in-house counselling and mental health services which are all free to use, together with referrals to external organisations that can offer additional specialised support.
However, the student said she felt the university had overlooked providing support for victims of sexual assault.
The student said: “They had no idea what to do, I assumed there would a system in place [to support students who had been raped] but it felt like there was nothing.
“It is crazy how little they do to help you – it has been so exhausting and upsetting.”
Describing the process as complicated, gruelling and entirely unhelpful, the student said easily accessible support needs to be provided to students who are sexually assaulted.
She added that she thinks sexual assault is a common issue facing university students and that the support offered is “downright disgusting and needs to change”.
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“I am not afraid to make noise to make that happen,” she added. “An assault makes you feel powerless and then the system just makes you feel even worse.
“I am determined not to feel powerless after what has happened to me, but unfortunately my treatment so far leads me to believe that perusing a police investigation would be futile and detrimental to my recovery.
“Throughout the whole thing I have been made to feel like I was an inconvenience.”
The 19-year-old said that she rang the university’s serious incidents service the morning after the rape, which was a Friday.
The first-year student claimed that, after being contacted by safeguarding on that same day, no one from the university checked on her over the weekend.
She also claimed that, during a call on that Monday afternoon, she wasn’t offered any reassurances.
“In this call I confessed that I was worried about being a burden to my friends and family and, instead of being told that being raped does not make you a burden, I was advised to speak to helplines instead,” the student claimed.
“Then I was told that, although they knew my details of the incident, I would have to independently contact wellbeing and tell them my situation.
“I was also trying to write an essay at the time, it was so overwhelming.”
The student said she didn’t get in touch with wellbeing services for three days as she had an essay due that week and was worried about getting an extension because she was too close to the deadline.
After submitting a form for well-being services on the Wednesday after the rape, she rang them the following Monday to book a triage appointment and was given one for the day after due to a cancellation.
“It was all so lengthy, it is so ridiculous,” she continued. “By this point, it has been over a week and I have had no support at all from them – I was just so drained.
“I very much felt that I had to deal with this on my own, I felt so unsupported and so alone.
“It felt like a mountain to get that triage appointment and for then to be told that they could not help me.”
She described that triage appointment as a “box-ticking exercise” and claimed she was told the university doesn’t offer trauma therapy and had no support to give to her.
The student also claimed she was told their services would not be specialist to sexual assault and would only run in term times in any case, adding she was then advised to finance her own private counselling.
However, UWE has said it offers student wellbeing support that is available all year-round, a range of in-house counselling and mental health services which are all free to use, together with referrals to external organisations that can offer additional specialised support.
The student claimed she was told that, if she got counselling elsewhere, UWE would not be able to offer her any kind of support in the future.
The 19-year-old – who decided to access therapy privately in the end – said the sexual assault had left her traumatised, struggling to sleep and that she still has flashbacks about what happened.
She said she will be making a formal complaint to the university, adding: “I feel very disappointed and let down by them [the university].
“I was shocked there was no support in place for people like me, you imagine a university would have a system in place to support victims of sexual assault – I thought that was a given.
“I do not want other people to go through what I have been through.”
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What the University of the West of England says
In a statement, UWE said: “Sexual harassment and misconduct are completely unacceptable and at UWE Bristol the health, wellbeing and safety of our students and staff is our number one priority.
“We have taken great care to create an effective Report and Support system which enables victims and witnesses of inappropriate behaviour to report incidents to the university confidentially and anonymously, if they wish.
“Students are also able to make reports via other channels, including our Serious Concerns Line which is managed by dedicated safeguarding officers who are on hand to offer professional advice and support.
“All reports are taken extremely seriously by the university and are followed up by specially trained staff who can support the student involved.
“A comprehensive package of wellbeing support is also available to all students. We understand that being a victim of assault or harassment can be extremely distressing and a range of support services are available for those who need it.
“This includes student wellbeing support that is available all year-round, a range of in-house counselling and mental health services which are all free to use, and referrals to external organisations that can offer additional specialised support.
“Whilst we cannot comment on the details of this particular case, our dedicated safeguarding and wellbeing staff are working closely with the student concerned to offer her support and guidance during this difficult time.”