The University should Commit to a reformed institutional-wide approach to sexual violence that is victim-survivor centred and human rights based

Passed: November 2020 (24th)

What do you want? / Why do you want it?

Sexual violence is a well-documented issue within Higher Education and wider society. The National Union of Students groundbreaking Hidden Marks study focused on women’ student experiences of harassment, stalking, violence and sexual assault and informs the following statistics. 1 in 4 women experience unwanted sexual contact. One third stated they feel unsafe when visiting university in the evenings. Further evidence shows that the majority of perpetrators are already known to the victim-survivor and likely to be studying at the same institution, studying the same course or even be in the same lecture theatre/ residence. Unfortunately, from experience I know that this is the reality for our students at Leeds University. These students subjected to sexual violence then risk suffering impacts on their metal wellbeing, physical, emotional health which goes on to effect their academic progression. Therefore, the University of Leeds has a duty to ensure students safety which will enable them to prosper in an educational environment that is free from harassment or violence.

Therefore, this policy is a call to action to reform of our Dignity and Mutual Respect Policy work and for the University of Leeds to create a five-year strategic plan to tackling sexual assault. A review of the Dignity and Mutual Respect policies will be trauma-informed and survivor-centred whilst being intersectional and requiring perpetrator accountability. The policy will focus on the following areas: responding to disclosures, developing a prevention and response educational programme that is multi-faceted and holistic in delivery, an address of terminology and adjudication definitions that articulates clear sanctioning guidelines for sexual violence. A commitment should follow that sexual violence at the University of Leeds is a crisis, which requires priority action and student-facing communications that the University is working hard to actively change the culture. This will then be translated into tangible actions and inform an understanding that we have a Zero-Tolerance culture for sexual violence.

The University of Leeds can either sustain the problem or commit to preventing the problem in their own communities by creating active guardians who will prevent and respond to sexual violence. These bystanders will then graduate and enter society with a social awareness of the issue to act on it. At present, our institution has nearly 40,000 students. Even if half of these students entered the workplace as doctors, lawyers, musicians, artists, politicians or teachers they would be taking this knowledge across different sectors. Regardless of the financial, legal and reputational risks of not embarking on this work, when we think about how the University of Leeds has the ability to influence society on a vast scale, it begs the question, why wouldn’t we address sexual violence in our institution?

Expires: November 2023 (24th)

Submitted By: Sophia Hartley

Officer: Welfare

Area of Work: Student Safety


March 2021: Sophia's report has been presented to various student groups and teams within Leeds University Union, along with several senior members of University staff. It was also received positively by the Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellors. As a result, the University are in the process of recruiting two new members of staff in the Support Team and Student Cases Team who would be responsible for delivering the recommendations in Sophia's report and ensuring the success of this project.

January 2021: Sophia (Welfare Officer) has drafted a comprehensive report which will outline the issue in more detail and the key recommendations for the University to act on.

November 2020: New Policy