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The Standing Together Team will work with you to deliver support in the most accessible way for you. We are currently providing remote and face to face appointments to students.

For out of hours support, you can register with Togetherall-they offer 24/7 online mental health support.
We’re aware that there are many factors and reasons why students may choose not to delay disclosing and/ or reporting unacceptable behaviours they have been subjected to, or decide not to disclose at all. We will understand wherever you are or want to be in your disclosure process, and will try and provide you with the information and tools to support you in your next steps. 

Regardless of your decision to disclose or not, we are keen to reduce the barriers to disclosure and reporting so that we can offer, and you can engage with, the most appropriate support. The below, specifically highlighting barriers for disclosures and reports or sexual violence, list is by no means exhaustive but is helpfully taken from ‘Addressing Student Sexual Violence in Higher Education’ (Humpreys & Towl, 2020). 

Key Terms


Sexual Violence: a broad term relating to any unwanted sexual act or activity. This may include, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse or rape. 
Unacceptable Behaviours: Any behaviour which concerns, distresses, harms or offends an individual. The level of unacceptability of a behaviour is determined by the impact on the recipient (direct or indirect recipients), rather than the intention behind the action. Examples of unacceptable behaviours include bullying, harassment, abuse, physical assault, sexual violence, hate incidents or hate crimes (behaviour against protected characteristics as specified in the Equality Act 2010). 
Misconduct: Behaviour that contravenes (goes against) our University regulations – these can be found here: https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/sas2/regulations/senate-regulations 
Disclosure: Making new/ previously unknown information known – in this case, usually to the University. Disclosures can be made via different forms (via email/ in person etc.) and aren’t always made in order to get an outcome. Sometimes the act of making a disclosure, and having a space in which to do this, is enough for some recipients of unacceptable behaviours. 
Reporting: informing the University or Police about an incident misconduct for the purposes of further action being taken through an investigation and decision-making process. 
Reporting Student: the student reporting to the University or Police that they have been subjected to any form of misconduct. 
Reported Student: the student who has been reported to the University or Police to have subjected another person to any form of misconduct.

Addressing Barriers to Disclosure

 

Barriers

How we can support you to overcome these barriers

Fear of not being believed

Common rape myths feed into this idea that victims are often not believed. Past experiences may also have an impact on a fear of not being believed too.

  • Case Workers are trained in receiving disclosures and we will work to ensure students feel completely believed in what they disclose.
  • To help raise awareness around this fear we have created a rape myth-busting section on our support pages.
  • As a team, we provide training to staff and students, and run awareness campaigns and events, on different topics, which will always aim to re-educate around commonly-believed myths and misconceptions.

Relationship with perpetrator

Research indicates that the majority of rape and sexual assault is committed by someone known to the victim or survivor. Sometimes victims may minimise sexual violence by an acquaintance more than they would do with a stranger. Within higher education, it is not uncommon for disclosing or reporting students to feel concerned about ‘ruining’ the reported student or staff member’s life by impacting their studies, career or reputation, or feel a sense of responsibility for the outcome of their report.  

Additionally, students may fear the impact on relationships with shared groups.

  • We offer anonymous disclosure options, which means that you do not have to disclose details of the reported person unless you decide you want to take it further through formal disciplinary proceedings.
  • If you would like guidance around the potential outcomes for disciplinary proceedings, a Case Worker within the Standing Together team will be happy to discuss this with you.
  • Whilst you may contribute to a misconduct process as the reporting student, the ongoing and ultimate disciplinary decisions will be made by a central team who will work to ensure that actions and decisions are consistent.
  • Throughout any formal disciplinary process, the Conduct team will assess to try and ensure adequate and effective precautionary measures (supportive measures to protect and reduce contact between all parties) are put in place for all students involved.

 

Family and the Wider University Community

Survivors may be concerned that their family and the wider university community  will learn about the incident, blame them for what happened or learn about their behaviour surrounding the incident, e.g. substance use or sex work. They may be estranged from their family or have experienced abuse from a family member. In respect of the University community, students may be concerned that the incident may be captured or discussed on social media.

  • The University’s confidentiality policy is clear that the information disclosed would not be shared with your family or anyone else without your explicit consent (unless there is a serious concern for your, or somebody else’s, health and safety, or we are bound by professional organisations to share information for safeguarding purposes). Your Case Worker can explain all of this before you share any information with them, if it is something that concerns you.
  • Precautionary measures (supportive measures to protect and reduce contact between all parties) can be applied throughout formal disciplinary proceedings, to help limit spread of information unnecessarily.

 

Cultural background

Survivors may not disclose due to their cultural background or religious beliefs. Survivors may be concerned about disclosing other behaviours involved in the incident, e.g. drinking alcohol etc. Survivors may also not want to bring negative attention to their community by exposing that such issues exist or they may be concerned that there is a danger of reinforcing negative stereotypes about the community.

  • As stated above, the University’s confidentiality policy is clear that the information disclosed would not be shared with your family or anyone else without your explicit consent (apart from very specific circumstances – this can be discussed further with your Case Worker).
  • The Standing Together team are able to signpost and refer you to community-specific services where possible and if appropriate.
  • Case Workers are sensitive to, and understanding of, the possibility of individuals who identify with more than one protected characteristic being particularly affected by some incidents and subsequent trauma. We are always hear to listen to whatever you are comfortable to share, and will continue learning and developing ourselves personally and professionally.
  • Please also remember that you are never to blame in these circumstances.

Language barrier

Sometimes survivors may not have the language skills to explain what has happened in English if English is not their first language. Note: this may include survivors in the Deaf community as sign language is not universal and it differs from English.

  • Student Support Services can try and support you to access an interpreter if required, and we will always aim to work at a pace that is best for you.
  • We will always try to ensure information is accessible as possible - please do let us know if there’s anything else we can do to support by emailing standingtogether@le.ac.uk

Guilt/Shame/Self-blame

Survivors may feel that they are at fault for the incident and may internalise feelings of guilt, shame and self-blame. This is often reinforced through common societal rape myths.

  • To help raise awareness around this barrier we have created a rape myth-busting section on our support pages.
  • Please also remember that you are never to blame in these circumstances.

Gender identity and Sexual Orientation

LGBTQ+ survivors may be reluctant to disclose as they not only have to disclose their traumatic experience, but they may also have to disclose their identity, sexual orientation or history and be willing to discuss aspects of their body. This may lead them to feel judged or have their sexuality questioned.

 

Disability

Survivors with disabilities may be at greater risk of not being believed due to individuals with physical disabilities being seen, incorrectly, as asexual. Individuals with mental health conditions may be concerned that the focus will be on their mental health and not the incident itself or that they may be asked or required to suspend their studies.

 

Identity of responder/listener

Survivors may often find it difficult to disclose to someone who is different from them in age, sexual orientation, race, nationality, religion or belief etc. They may also find it difficult to disclose to someone of the same gender as the perpetrator. Students also be reluctant to disclose to staff who they know in another context for fear that the relationship may change.

  • The University supports any person regardless of their identity or the perpetrators’ identity. If you would like to access LGBT+ community-specific services please visit our support pages or speak with your Case Worker.
  • Other specific internal and external services are also available and can support with disability, gender identity, sexuality, religious or cultural related concerns.
  • Our online disclosure tool means that you are able to make a disclosure in your own time without judgment. You can also decide whether you would like to access support from a Case Worker or whether you would like your disclosure to remain anonymous.
  • The Standing Together team is made up of male and female Case Workers who are all trained in receiving disclosures and offering support who sit outside of the academic departments within the University.
  • The Standing Together team are always working to engage with training that will develop our personal understanding and professional skills. We recently attended an overview training session provided by Gendered Intelligence. Let us know if there are any other training you would recommend for us by emailing standingtogether@le.ac.uk.
  • We are in the process of providing guidance to other University staff in how to respond to disclosures, which will hopefully improve the diversity of staff able to receive disclosures.

Distrust in University Response

Survivors may fear that the University will silence or ignore them and protect the perpetrator(s).

  • We are continuously working on policies and procedures for how disclosures and reports are received and supported through the correct channels.
  • The Standing Together team are all trained in receiving disclosures and offering support who sit outside of the academic departments within the University.
  • The Standing Together team also work very closely with the Conduct Team to regularly provide student feedback to try and inform policies and processes moving forwards.
  • Information about the University formal reporting process will always be on our Report & Support disclosure tool here: https://reportandsupport.le.ac.uk/support/disciplinary-reporting-process

Distrust in law enforcement

Survivors may be fearful of reporting to the police for fear of getting in trouble for other behaviour, re-traumatisation and loss of control or fear of the police themselves. It may be true for international students to distrust local law enforcement due to experiences in their home country.

  • Reporting to the police is not the only option available to you. Should you wish to report an incident to the police, an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) will be able to support you through this process, as well as your University Case Worker.
  • Please do note also that, in the UK, a lawyer is not needed to make a report to the Police, which may otherwise be a barrier for some.

Not knowing how to disclose

Students may be unsure whom they can tell, where they should go, if they can remain anonymous or what will happen during and after a disclosure and/or report.

  • You are able to let us know about something that has happened to you or someone you know, either anonymously or by leaving your contact email, by answering a few multiple-choice questions on our ‘Report & Support’ online disclosure system.
  • We have also created a video guide about the online disclosure tool to help you familiarise yourself with the system, and a video guide about the role of a Wellbeing Case Worker, which should also provide an overview of the role and what you can expect when you make a disclosure.
  • Your Case Worker can then talk you through the process of formally reporting to the University. Additional information on this can also be found here: https://reportandsupport.le.ac.uk/support/disciplinary-reporting-process

 

The ‘unknown’ including how your information will be used or feeling unsure of your options

Students may be concerned about how their information will be used after a disclosure. Equally, they may be unsure about their options at this point and may fear having to make a formal report to the University or report to the police.

  • You are able to let us know about something that has happened to you or someone you know, either anonymously or by leaving your contact email by answering a few multiple-choice questions on our ‘Report & Support’ online disclosure system.
  • You have a number of options available to you. You may choose to report an incident to the Police or to the University as a disciplinary matter. It may be that you choose not to report the incident at all, in which case your Case Worker will explore the best options with you.
  • For more information around the Report & Support Privacy Policy, the Student Support Services Information Privacy Notice, and the University’s Data Protection legislation please visit the following links: https://reportandsupport.le.ac.uk/pages/privacy-policy

https://www2.le.ac.uk/legal/privacy/services

https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ias/dp

Fear of backlash or retaliation

Survivors may fear that the perpetrator may hurt them following a report or may be concerned that their friends or family may turn against them. They may also be concerned that their academic department may mark their work differently or see them as a problem student.

Sex Workers for example may be reluctant to disclose for fear of being ‘outed’.

  • We are standing together against all unacceptable behaviours including retaliation. Should you fear retaliation you can disclose this to your Case Worker and/or via our Report & Support system.
  • Precautionary measures (supportive measures to protect and reduce contact between all parties) can be applied throughout formal disciplinary proceedings, to help limit spread of information unnecessarily.
  • As a team, we provide training to staff and students, and run awareness campaigns and events, on different topics, which will always try and re-educate. Prevention is at the heart of our work, however we also focus on reactive support in relation to education and providing ongoing support to students.
  • Please also remember that you are never to blame in these circumstances.

Fear of repercussions for breaching social distancing rules

  • Students who disclose or report unacceptable behaviour to the university will not face disciplinary action if social distancing rules have been broken.

Table adapted from: ‘Addressing student sexual violence in higher education’ (Humphreys & Towl, 2020) 
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