Sexual assault and harassment guidance
Information for cases of sexual abuse
Sexual harassment and assault
Guidelines intended as a starting point for you to think about the support you need and how to access it
The University is committed to supporting students impacted by sexual abuse. We will not tolerate sexual abuse within the University community and will take 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 behaviour that is humiliating, intimidating or hostile, and may include actions like derogatory name calling, belittling remarks, insults, threats, unwanted personal attention.
If you have experienced sexual abuse, the University will support you by:
- listening to you.
- treating you sensitively and with respect.
- respecting confidentiality.
- providing or signposting further support that you may need.
- taking further action (for example, disciplinary action) if this is appropriate.
Are you safe?
If you are in physical danger or in need of immediate medical attention, call the emergency services on 999.
You can access medical support for injuries or infections from your GP, local hospital, or the NHS Lothian Sexual Health Clinic (see link below). Medical practitioners will adhere to strict patient confidentiality guidelines.
If you intend to report sexual assault, please be aware that there is a time window for collection of forensic evidence. This can depend on certain circumstances, such as whether you have showered since the incident. The Advice Place, Rape Crisis Scotland, Police Scotland, or a medical professional can explain this to you in more detail – their details can be found below.
Contact the Advice Place
The Students’ Association Advice Place is the best provider of frontline support for students who have experienced sexual harassment or assault, and we strongly encourage you to make contact with staff there as soon as possible. Whatever action you decide to take is your choice, but the Advice Place can advise you on what options there are, including:
- Taking action against the perpetrator using the University or Edinburgh University Students’ Association complaints procedures (including the possibility of a University order to suspend the perpetrator from any further contact with you).
- Changing accommodation, if necessary.
- Referring you to other support agencies such as Rape Crisis Scotland.
- Facilitating “Third Party Police Reporting” (this means that Advice Place staff can help you report your experience to the police, or report it for you, without you needing to be in contact with the police).
The Advice Place will not disclose any of your details to a third party (including the University or the police) without your consent unless the staff believe that you or someone else are at imminent risk of harm. In this case, the staff would discuss this with you first.
You do not need an appointment to access the Advice Place. Their offices are in Potterrow (central) or at King’s Buildings, and contact details are below:
Telephone: 0131 650 9225 / 0800 206 2341 (Freephone)
Text: 07537 402004
You can make an appointment in person during the opening hours below.
Advice Place opening hours
Kings Buildings House
Outside of these times the Rape Crisis Scotland helpline (see ‘Further support’ below) is open from 6pm-midnight every day.
You can also access the services of the Student Counselling Service (link below) or tel. 0131 650 4170 or seek further advice and support from the Student Support Team in your School.
You can find out more about the range of national and local support services available to survivors of rape and sexual assault in Scotland in the Scottish Government publication “Information and help after rape and sexual assault”. You can view this document via the link below:
If you have experienced rape or sexual assault, you may want to contact Rape Crisis Scotland directly. Contact details can be found here:
They provide a national rape crisis helpline on 08088 01 03 02 and also offer email support for anyone affected by sexual violence, regardless of gender, no matter when or how it happened.
The helpline is open from 6pm to midnight, 7 days a week, and offers free and confidential support.
They publish a useful and comprehensive set of FAQs for survivors of rape and sexual assault within their website. Further information is available via the link below:
The Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre (ERCC) offers emotional and practical support, information and advocacy to women, all members of the transgender community, and non-binary people who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their lives. ERCC is located at 17 Claremont Crescent, Edinburgh, EH7 4HX.
You can leave them a message on 0131 556 9437, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Their website can be viewed via the link below:
SurvivorsUK provide a national helpline for men who have experienced sexual abuse and offer support through web chat, WhatsApp, phone, and text. More details can be found via their website:
Telling the University
It’s always your choice, but you may decide to disclose details of the assault or harassment to the University. For example, you may want the University to take action under its Code of Student Conduct, or staff disciplinary procedure.
Investigation under the Code of Student Conduct
If you make a complaint relating to sexual abuse involving another student, the University will consider whether it is appropriate to take action under the Code of Student Conduct. While the criminal process will consider whether a crime has been committed, the University’s disciplinary process considers whether there has been a breach of the Code of Student Conduct.
All students are expected to comply with the Code of Student Conduct; it includes a list of the types of behaviour which would be regarded as unacceptable, such as “violent, indecent, disorderly, threatening or offensive behaviour…including harassment”.
The University will usually carry out an investigation into the matter, and will discuss the process with you in advance to ensure that you are comfortable with each stage.
You can expect the University to carry out a risk assessment to understand whether there is a risk to members of the University community. As part of this risk assessment the University may ask a senior member of staff to gather some background information about the case and they may request to speak with you about it to make sure your needs and concerns are fully understood. If, as a result of the risk assessment, the University concludes that there is a significant risk to the wider community, the University may take precautionary action, such as imposing a partial or full suspension on the related student until the case is concluded.
The University will share the minimum amount of information needed in order to conduct its investigation. This could, however, involve speaking to any witnesses, as well as the student (or students) to whom your complaint relates.
The University’s investigation will be as thorough as reasonably possible, but will be more limited than a police investigation, since the University does not have access to forensics, and cannot compel witnesses to give evidence.
At every stage of our investigation, including where it leads to a hearing before the Student Discipline Committee, we will take reasonable steps to ensure that you do not have to come into contact with the student (or students) your complaint relates to.
If a police investigation or criminal proceedings are taking place, the University will not normally carry out its own investigation until the criminal process is complete. This is because there is a high risk that a University investigation could compromise any police investigation or criminal proceedings.
The University will not normally report an allegation of rape or sexual assault to the Police without your permission. However if the alleged perpetrator of the rape or assault represents a continued threat to other members of the University community, it may be necessary for the University to breach confidentiality and report the assault to the Police. Any such decision would be taken by the University Secretary following discussion with you, and based on legal advice if needed.
In the event of a criminal investigation, University staff may be required to give evidence about any conversations they have had with you or your representatives.
Once the criminal case is concluded, the University will then consider whether it is necessary to pursue its own, full investigation into misconduct. This may happen relatively quickly (e.g. if no charges are brought) or it may take a significant amount of time (e.g. if the case goes to court, to trial, then to appeal, etc.).
Investigation under the staff disciplinary procedure
If you make a complaint relating to sexual abuse or harassment involving a member of University staff, this will be investigated under the University’s staff disciplinary procedure.
A member of staff will be appointed to investigate your complaint, who will meet with you to discuss your complaint. They will also meet with the member of staff your complaint relates to, and any witnesses identified by yourself or the member of staff. Once the investigation has been completed, you will be advised as to whether or not your complaint has been upheld.
If your complaint is upheld, a disciplinary panel will consider the conduct of the staff member. In line with the University’s staff disciplinary procedure and its duty as an employer, the action taken by the disciplinary panel will remain confidential. You will, however, be advised of measures the Panel recommends be put in place to ensure your wellbeing.
Are there times when the University will not take action?
The University has the same responsibilities towards all of its students. Sometimes there is not enough evidence available in a case for the University to take action against another student, or a member of staff. Where this occurs, the University will explain this to you, and try to find out whether there are other ways to support you, such as whether reasonable steps can be taken to ensure that you do not have to come into contact with the person your complaint relates to.
If you have any queries or comments about this document, please contact the University Secretary’s Office using the email address below:
Additionally, you may consult information regarding the complaint handling procedure:
For further advice about the Complaint Handling Procedure, email the address below: