Brunel University London is committed to providing a safe and respectful environment where the whole community is able to study, work and live free from sexual violence and sexual harassment. The University takes any incidents of sexual violence or sexual harassment very seriously and is committed to handling all reports sensitively, effectively and in a timely manner. Brunel will provide emotional support to you if you have been impacted by sexual violence or sexual harassment and information and advice on how to access help.
This policy applies to all members of the University including current students, employees, contractors, suppliers and visitors. Sexual violence and sexual harassment is not permitted in the University community and everyone is expected to treat all members of the community with dignity and respect.
This policy provides support and advice in the event of sexual violence or sexual harassment in learning environments, working environments, accommodation, social activities and on and off campus when activities are linked to the University community such as accommodation, work placements, trips and internships.
The University recognises that individuals whose social and cultural characteristics intersect, e.g. gender, disability, LGBT, religion and different ethnic groups, are potentially more vulnerable to sexual violence and sexual harassment and may require additional support.
Further advice and support for students is available through the Bullying and Harassment Policy. See equality and diversity section at https://students.brunel.ac.uk/support.
Further advice and support for employees is available in the Dignity at Work Policy - www.intra.brunel.ac.uk/s/hr/Documents/Dignity.
In autumn 2016, Universities UK published a report setting out the findings of a taskforce that had examined violence, harassment and hate crime against women particularly prioritising issues of sexual violence and harassment in higher education. It recognised that the potential impact of any such incident may be so serious in nature that universities must be equipped to respond effectively and engage in prevention initiatives. For more detail see www.universitiesuk.ac.uk
Universities UK made a set of wide-ranging recommendations, which prioritised 4 key aspects to address these issues:
- senior leadership
- an institution-wide approach
The University set up a Working Group to build on the strong foundations that had already been laid. This included spearheading the USV React Project, which in collaboration with universities across Europe supports victims of sexual violence and involved working with 1,000 university staff to build knowledge and confidence. The remit of the Working Group was to ensure these recommendations were implemented across the University and monitored and reviewed regularly. The need for a whole university approach and a policy to provide a framework of advice and guidance for the institution were deemed necessary.
Brunel University London commits to ensuring the following:
- Creating a culture free from sexual violence and sexual harassment where the whole community will behave with respect and dignity to each other, consent and understanding boundaries are the norm and individuals affected speak up and get help.
- Taking all reasonable steps to meet the University’s statutory obligations to eliminate and prevent sexual violence and sexual harassment, and address any inappropriate behaviours promptly to prevent issues from escalating.
- Providing a physical environment where all departments, facilities and spaces on campus are safe and welcoming.
- Where sexual violence or sexual harassment does occur, everyone knows how to seek help and appropriate support will be provided.
- Handling all allegations of sexual violence and / or sexual harassment seriously and sensitively and investigating them promptly while protecting the individual rights of those involved, including those against whom an allegation has been made.
- Not tolerating any sexual violence or sexual harassment. These behaviours will be treated as a serious disciplinary offence and will be dealt with under Senate Regulation 6 for students - Senate Regulation 6 or the University’s Disciplinary Policy and Procedures for employees Staff Disciplinary Policy as appropriate
- Making the whole University community aware of this policy, which behaviours are not acceptable and how individuals are expected to behave.
- Providing awareness sessions and training on what constitutes unacceptable and inappropriate behaviour under this policy and how to access appropriate support.
- Reviewing incidents annually by Student Services and / or Human Resources as appropriate to identify any trends that need to be addressed or investigated further.
Key Definitions related to sexual violence and sexual harassment
Sexual violence is any unwanted or uninvited sexual act or activity e.g. rape, stalking, forced marriage. There are many different types of sexual violence and these can be psychological and / or physical. For more information see detail in Appendix A.
Sexual Harassment describes a range of words, behaviors and / or conduct of a sexual nature that are unwanted and uninvited. It is often intended to or has the effect of creating an intimidating, degrading, humiliating or offensive impact and is an abuse of personal or institutional power. It is often based on a person’s gender rather than sexual desire. For more information see detail in Appendix A.
Consent is providing express permission for something to happen or agreeing to do something with a full awareness and understanding of the facts and without coercion.
For more information on the definitions, see detail in Appendix A.
All members of the University community must seek consent when their behaviour involves interacting with each other in a sexual manner in a social context. This involves agreement by choice and can be withdrawn at any time. It can never be assumed, implied or coerced. If consent is uncertain then any behaviour should be stopped.
Note the guidance for employees on relationships and how to avoid any actual or potential conflicts of interest, misuse of authority, or allegations of inappropriate conduct is provided in the Relationships at Work Policy – see Relationships at Work Policy
All members of the University community have a responsibility to take action if they observe sexual violence or sexual harassment as long it is safe to do so. It is important to avoid the bystander effect where the presence of others often discourages individuals from intervening. This can potentially normalise these behaviours and make inappropriate behaviour more acceptable.
This policy recognises the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 which provides protection for everyone from discrimination, and makes it unlawful to harass or discriminate against someone on the grounds of the nine protected characteristics of age, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy & maternity, marriage & civil partnership, disability, gender and gender reassignment. The legislation defines harassment as ‘unwanted conduct” including that of a sexual nature, which has “the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.
Experiences of sexual violence and sexual harassment may intersect with other forms of discrimination and harassment.
Individuals are also protected from harassment not only in relation to themselves as an individual, but also on the grounds that they are associated with someone else with a protected characteristic or that someone perceives wrongly that another person does or does not have a protected characteristic.
For more information on other legislation that provides protection for sexual violence and / or sexual harassment, see Appendix A
Nothing in this policy prevents anyone experiencing sexual violence or sexual harassment from exercising their legal rights. The University will engage with external investigations by the police and other enforcement bodies as appropriate and necessary.
No student or employee is under any obligation to disclose any incident of sexual violence or sexual harassment. However, anyone affected is encouraged to get help as soon as possible either from the University or external agencies.
Getting support if you believe you have experienced sexual violence or sexual harassment
The University encourages you to act promptly and not to feel any sexual violence or sexual harassment is your fault, or that you have to wait until the situation is repeated or exacerbated. The University recognises that any incident is unacceptable and might be distressing. It is important that you don’t feel that you should have to tolerate such behaviour and that you have the support of the University to decide if and how you want to take any further action. In addition it will enable the University to make arrangements and to put support in place if required, including, where possible, measures to protect the personal safety of all involved at all times.
Where it is considered that that there is a real threat to the personal safety of any person, this should be reported to Security on 01895 255786 or the police on 999 immediately.
If you believe you have been subjected to sexual violence or sexual harassment, there are a number of options available to you to get help.
If you are a student:
- Report the incident to Security on 01895 255786;
- Contact the Student Support and Welfare Team either face to face or via phone 67045 or email email@example.com
- Seek advice or discuss the matter with a personal tutor or lecturer in your College and / or anyone else with whom you feel comfortable;
- Report it via the Report and Support Portal where you can disclose your personal details or make an anonymous report - Report and Support
- Call the police on 999 in the case of emergency call 999 or if not urgent call 101.
If you are an employee:
- Report the incident to Security on 01895 255786;
- Contact your HR Business Partner or the equality, diversity and inclusion team on firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Seek advice or discuss the matter with your line manager or a colleague, or anyone else with whom you feel comfortable; this may include a trade union representative;
- Contact an Anti-Harassment Advisor via Anti-Harassment Advisors
- Call the police on 999 in the case of emergency call 999 or if not urgent call 101.
If you witness an incident of sexual violence or sexual harassment you should also be encouraged to report it using the same channels listed above.
Getting emotional support
It is important that anyone affected by sexual violence or sexual harassment should seek support as soon as possible.
If you are a student, you can get help and support from the Student Support and Welfare Team – phone 01895 267045 or email email@example.com,
If you are an employee, you can get help and support from Human Resources and/or the Employee Assistance Programme – Call 0808 168 2143 or visit Care First Lifestyle quoting ‘brunel’ as your username and ‘employee’ as your password.
Students and employees can also seek support from a number of external agencies – see details in Appendix D.
Reporting an incident for action to be taken
There will be occasions when you will want to report the incident. If you are a student and want to report an incident, you can report it through the report and support portal - Report and Support.
If you are an employee who wants to report an incident, you should raise your concern(s) through the Dignity at Work Policy and Procedure.
All reports will be taken seriously and will be investigated within the time limits set out in the relevant policy with due consideration to all parties. You will be kept informed by the Office for Student Complaints, Conducts and Appeals or Human Resources as appropriate.
Reporting the incident to the police - there are some incidents of sexual violence or sexual harassment which are so serious that individuals will be liable to prosecution under the law and you may choose to use this channel. These include (but are not limited to) sexual assault, stalking and rape. If you experience such an assault on campus, the University encourages you to report it to Security immediately call: 01895 255786. If off campus you should call 999 in the case of emergency or if non urgent call 101.
If a police investigation is commenced, the University will consider whether an internal investigation is required or if already underway whether the internal investigation should be paused whilst the police investigation is undertaken. Adjustments may be required during this time period to protect the University and the individual(s) involved. By way of example only:
- For students this could include a change of accommodation, suspension of studies, separating the students involved in the learning environment etc and/or removal of a student from campus.
- For employees, this could include temporary redeployment, amending work duties and/or relocation to a different work location and paid suspension from work.
Full consideration will be given to the facts and circumstances of each particular case when considering how and when investigations should be undertaken, any necessary adjustments and any disciplinary or other sanctions.
Supporting a student or employee who discloses an incident of sexual violence or sexual harassment
Disclosing an incident of sexual violence or sexual harassment can be very distressing and the way and to whom an individual chooses to do so will vary depending on a range of factors, including who they feel comfortable with and how sensitive they feel the issue is.
In addition an employee, another student or a visitor may observe an incident of sexual violence or sexual harassment and be unsure how to intervene.
If someone shares an incident of sexual violence and / or harassment that they have experienced, it is best to respond in the following way:
- Reply in good faith on the basis that they are telling the truth;
- Do not make any assumptions - there are many myths within society that lead to victim blaming and it is best to listen non-judgementally;
- Direct them to specialist services either on or off campus;
- Do not act without their consent unless the individual or others are still at risk, or they need urgent medical attention.
Key to this meeting will be to reassure the individual that support is available and explain how they can report the incident. The individual should be encouraged to make notes of any incidents so that they can give examples, including any dates and times and details of any witnesses present. Taking photos or screenshots of offensive written or visual material can also be very helpful.
The member of staff should make notes following the meeting of what was discussed with any advice given and any follow up required and email them to the individual. They should keep a copy of the e-mail in a secure location in case it is needed in the future. In addition they should report it to the Student Support and Welfare Team and / or HR as appropriate who should assess whether there is any action that needs to be taken as a matter of priority. They may also need to inform other relevant staff if appropriate.
For more information, see the flowcharts in appendices B and C.
Training for University employees on responding to disclosures of sexual violence and sexual harassment is highly recommended for all staff and a full day programme is delivered by Student Services. For more detail, see USVSV First Responder One Day Programme. An online version is also available – see Sexual Violence Module
It is of vital importance that all employees know how to respond to these difficult sensitive incidents. In addition information on sexual violence and sexual harassment is provided in the Dignity at Work workshop for employees. For more information, see Dignity at Study Workshop.
Information submitted will remain confidential as far as is consistent with other people’s rights to know of any allegations made and / or evidence held against them. By reporting an incident, you are giving the University permission to inform other employees / organisations of the incident, investigate the incident and to discuss them with appropriate people. It might also be necessary to provide details of the incident to any relevant department and to request any relevant information. The person being investigated is normally asked to respond. Where it is necessary to interview witnesses, the importance of confidentiality will be emphasised. It should be explained to everyone involved in the process that any breach of confidentiality may lead to disciplinary action. Where you are not comfortable disclosing details, you will be asked to declare this so that the University can advise to what extent they can investigate the incident.
You should be aware that there are also times when confidentiality will need to be broken under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998 such as in the event of an identified risk to you or where there is a criminal investigation and you may be required to give evidence.
In addition employees are expected to raise any reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment with the relevant College Education Manager, Student Support and Welfare Manager, Line Manager, HR and / or other staff as appropriate and it is important that this is conveyed to the individual.
If the student or employee does wish the University to take action by submitting a complaint, they will need to disclose the identity of the individual they are complaining about.
All sexual violence or sexual harassment incidents which are reported should be recorded, along with any relevant outcome. Any student incident should be forwarded to the Student Services and any employee incident recorded by HR. This data will be reviewed by Student Services and HR annually and any trends monitored and addressed.