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University reporting tool sees sharp increase in reports of sexual violence

A Freedom of Information request made by The National reveals that reports of assault and harassment almost doubled in a year


By Olivia Mackenzie


Courtesy of Aedan Brennan

Content Warning: Sexual violence


The University of Aberdeen has an online reporting tool through which students can alert the university and seek support for “acts of harassment, bullying, violence, targeted hate or sexual misconduct”.

A reporter for the National discovered that the tool had been used for 12 cases in the 2020/21 term, with seven in the previous year. Of these reports, one led to a disciplinary hearing and none led to expulsion.


In response to the story, the university stressed that these figures may not fully reflect the issue as reports can be made concerning incidents off-campus where the perpetrator is not linked to the university.


Figures released on the Scottish Government website showed a 50% increase in reported sexual assaults early in 2021. Police Scotland suggested this may be linked with the easing of lockdown restrictions, however crime data does not always reflect the true extent of sexual violence as incidents can go unreported and less than half of reported rapes result in a conviction.


Nick Edwards, Deputy Director of People at the University of Aberdeen has stated:

“We take the welfare of all our students and staff extremely seriously and the University constantly reviews and makes enhancements to its support services, including those related to gender-based violence.


“This system [the reporting toolkit] aims to empower people to make reports of sexual violence or harassment they witness or experience on or off campus and can be used to make a report or to seek support. It is open to all students, staff and visitors to our campuses.


“It is likely that across society such issues have been under-reported for many years.

"Reporting tools such as this coupled with increased discussion about the issue more widely has raised awareness and empowered and enabled people who have experienced sexual violence or harassment to come forward. As people become more confident at making reports and speaking out about their experiences, I would expect to see a rise in disclosures across all aspects of society over time before any reduction is seen.”


AUSA’s VP for Welfare Ivana Drdáková responded:


“Any form of abuse or harassment should not have place in modern society.

"Students still find it hard to speak up about the trauma they experienced. The reporting system and procedures need to be transparent, so students are aware of how the cases are being handled. We have started working with the University on reviewing the Student Code of Conduct and hope that it will result in offenders facing the consequences of their actions more often.”


Support for these issues can be found at https://www.abdn.ac.uk/about/inclusive/support/support.php.