Guidelines for staff: What to do if a student tells you they have been sexually harassed or assaulted.
The University will not tolerate sexual abuse within its community. The University is committed to supporting any students who experience sexual abuse and to taking the appropriate action regarding those who commit it.
Sexual abuse may take many forms. In addition to rape and sexual assault, it includes sexual harassment, i.e. any sexualised behaviour that is humiliating, intimidating or hostile and may include actions like derogatory name calling, belittling remarks, insults, threats, unwanted personal attention. And of course anyone can be subjected to sexual harassment regardless of their sexuality, gender, race, religion, or disability.
Support for students who have experienced sexual abuse is a specialist matter and it is not expected that non-specialist staff provide this sort of support. However a student who has experienced sexual abuse or harassment may decide to disclose it to any member of staff. These short guidelines have been created to assist staff who may need to have such a conversation and refer the student on for more specialist support elsewhere.
A similar set of guidelines have been produced for students and is attached as an appendix.
If the student is in physical danger or in need of immediate medical attention, call the emergency services on 999.
The most important message to get across to the student in any conversation is that the University is committed to supporting any students who have experienced sexual abuse and to taking the appropriate action regarding anyone who has committed it. Listening sympathetically and non-judgementally to the student’s concerns is the first step in this process.
A student wishing to report sexual abuse may well wish to be accompanied by a friend or supporter. Equally, it is useful for there to be more than one member of staff (in addition to yourself) present during any conversation for the purposes of evidence gathering (should the matter ultimately end up in the criminal courts). The student may not welcome this, but you should suggest to the student that another member of staff is present during the discussion - if the student is comfortable with that.
For any form of sexual abuse, the Students' Association is the best place to provide professional frontline support and you should encourage the student to make contact with the Advice Place as soon as possible. The Advice Place can advise the student on what action they can take, including taking action against the alleged perpetrator or using the University or EUSA complaints procedures or referring them to other support agencies such as Rape Crisis Scotland. The Advice Place can also facilitate “Third Party Police Reporting”, i.e. they can help the student report their experience to the police, or Advice Place staff can report it for the student, without them needing to be in contact with the police at the initial stage. Finally, the Advice Place can help the student change accommodation if needed.
Students do not need an appointment to access the Advice Place. Offices are in Potterrow (central) or at Kings Buildings, or you can call them on 0131 650 9225 / 0800 206 2341 (freephone) or text them on 07537 402004 or email them on the address below:
5/2 Bristo Square
King’s Buildings House Office,
University of Edinburgh King's Buildings
If the student has experienced sexual violence but does not wish to access the Advice Place, you should highlight the services of Rape Crisis Scotland:
They provide a national rape crisis helpline on 08088 01 03 02 and also offer email support for anyone affected by sexual violence, women and men, no matter when or how it happened. The helpline is open from 6pm to midnight, 7 days a week, and offers free and confidential initial and crisis support and information.
The Edinburgh Womens’ Rape Crisis Centre is at 1 Leopold Place, Edinburgh, EH7 5JW, Tel: 0131 557 6737. Click on the link below for more information:
SurvivorsUK provide a national helpline for men who have experienced sexual abuse and offer support through chatservices/webchat/sms. Click on the link below for more information:
Students who have experienced rape or sexual assault may also need to receive:
The student may wish to know how to report harassment or assault by a member of the University community so that it is investigated under the University’s own procedures. While the Advice Place (see above) is best placed to provide support with this aspect, it may be useful to note that a student who wishes to report an instance of sexual harassment or assault, whether by a fellow student or by a member of staff, should use the University Complaint Handling Procedure (see link below):
For further advice about the Complaint Handling Procedure, email the address below:
Following the meeting, you should send an e-mail to the student reminding them what was discussed, any instructions/support given (e.g. EUSA Advice Place or other specialist support agency referral) and any decision taken or follow up required. You should send the e-mail to the student’s University email address only (for security reasons) and double-check the email address is correct before sending. You should also keep a copy of the e-mail in a secure location in case you need to refer to it in the future.
The student may ask that you keep anything they tell you confidential. You need to be aware that:
As per the above, any case of sexual assault that is brought to your attention should be reported to the University Secretary.
The University Secretary can be contacted via the email address below ; by phone 0131 650 2153 or at Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
The Staff Counselling Service provides a confidential service of further support and counselling for yourself if needed. Staff counselling contact details can be seen below:
tel: 0131 650 2513
You may also wish to speak to a senior colleague.
The online guidance for students can be seen via the link below: