Sexual Assault Victim Claims ‘Gagged’ by Universities

35 UK universities admit that they have asked students who have been victims of sexual assault, bullying and poor teaching to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA).

Charlotte (falsified name), a previous undergraduate student who studied at the University of West London (UWL), said she reported being sexually assaulted by another student to the police and University. Despite being interviewed for five hours, she was told that there was a lack of evidence to prosecute since she had “blacked out”. This is a common excuse and grey area for similar cases.

Charlotte said because of this it took her three weeks to recover from emotional turmoil that resulted in an overdose. She still felt unsupported by the University for academic and mental difficulties. A staff member on campus even thanked her for keeping the secret and not affecting the life of the attacker. Her classmates had been discouraged to not contact her because she had “got herself into a very bad place”. 

Another student, Olivia, complained that she has been assaulted violently during her undergraduate years and faced a similar situation. The police dropped her case because of insufficient evidence. Worse still, the University forced her to sign an agreement to prevent her from speaking out to the public, or she would be expelled. 

Olivia didn’t get any financial help or legal advice before signing the agreement. She had also been told not to let anyone know about it, which “let me felt like it’s my fault”.  

Unlike Olivia who conceded and kept silent, Charlotte took legal action through submission of a formal complaint. This helped her get £1,000 as compensation. She still signed an NDA to prevent her from exposing the information. 

According to The Guardian, record proved that from 2014 to 2018 the numbers of rapes increased by 173%, while the police took 19% less cases for charging decision. 

By 2018, there were over 20000 women (an average of one every 30 minutes), who decided not to proceed with investigation for rape, even if they knew the identity of suspect.  

University UK, which represents over 136 institutions claimed: “Every student has the right to speak out when they feel concerned and it is necessary for the university to take action to protect their students from vulnerable.