The UCU, a trade union representing university and college staff, has called for universities to take action against endemic levels of sexual violence. The report has called on senior managers to address the issue, and it calls for an end to non-disclosure agreements that shield perpetrators from prosecution. It also highlights a culture that encourages retaliation against victims of sexual assault. Survivors have said that male academics are especially likely to exploit their power as a result of their charm and clout.
The UCU has argued that the recent report, titled Universities Fail to Tackle Endangered Sexual Abuse on Campus, reveals the extent of the problem and makes clear recommendations for change. While the university sector is beginning to acknowledge this problem, progress is slow and variable. Ultimately, a collaborative approach between employers, unions, and staff is needed to create a safe and inclusive sector.
The report cited numerous cases of sexual violence on campus and revealed a worrying pattern of behaviour. The UCU reported that over 70% of sexual assault victims did not report the incidents to their employers. The union warned that the situation would create a ‘vicious circle’ of senior management ignoring the problem and causing victims to lose trust in the reporting process. The sexual violence task force interviewed victims and revealed that women and postgraduate researchers were the most likely to suffer from harassment and sex attacks, as they rely heavily on relationships with established staff.
The UCU is calling on universities to reject non-disclosure agreements with perpetrators and introduce policies that allow court cases against them to proceed even after they leave the institution. While this is a necessary step, the findings in the report suggest that institutions need to act sooner rather than later to curb endemic levels of sexual violence. There is no doubt that the UK’s academic community needs to take action to ensure the safety of its staff.
The report found that the majority of UK universities fail to tackle endemic levels of sexual violence on their campuses. The NUS also reported that one in ten staff members had directly experienced workplace sexual assault during the past five years. This figure is higher among early career and casualised staff. This is a shocking statistic and suggests that it is time to take action to address the problem of sexual harassment in the academic sector.
According to the report, British universities are not doing enough to combat the scourge of sexual violence on their campuses. The UCU found that twelve per cent of women and five per cent of men had experienced workplace sexual assault in the past five years. The UCU uses the term “sexual violence” to refer to a variety of sexual offences, not just the crimes that occur on campus.
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