Eradicating Sexual Violence in Tertiary Education: A report from UCU’s sexual violence task group

Addington, Carola; Sundari, Anitha; Baars, Vicki; Day, Katy; Domoney-Lyttle, Zanne; Downes, Julia; Gillies, Jane; Mabrouk, Meriam; Marlow, Emily; McGookin, Naomi; McMillan, Lesley; Reece, Nina; Sundaram, Vanita and Grady, Jo (2021). Eradicating Sexual Violence in Tertiary Education: A report from UCU’s sexual violence task group. UCU, London.



This report represents the work of 13 UCU members who were convened in September 2020 to examine sexual violence in tertiary education across the UK and inform the union’s campaigning and representation of members affected by the issue.

The report reinforces previous research about the worryingly high levels of prevalence of sexual violence in the sector, with a focus on the past five years. As well as highlighting the severity of the problem in general terms, some of the report’s most important findings are about the disproportionate prevalence of sexual violence against groups that are marginalised by employment status or protected characteristics. Precariously employed staff and postgraduate researchers, disabled staff, trans and non-binary staff, and staff whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual are all significantly more likely to have directly experienced sexual violence in the past five years.

The report presents a number of recommendations for employers, alongside recommendations for UCU to implement to enhance its campaigning against sexual violence, as well as its support for and representation of survivors. Selected recommendations include:
Employers should abandon the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with perpetrators, disclose outcomes of complaints to survivors, and include information about disciplinary proceedings in references provided for perpetrators. Employers should recognise that casualisation exacerbates gender-based violence and work with UCU to end it through collective agreements and lobbying for wider policy change. Employers should develop policies to allow proceedings against alleged perpetrators to continue after they have left the institution, where necessary and in accordance with the wishes of the complainant. UCU should consider withholding at least some forms of representation from perpetrators. UCU should provide guidance and support for survivors and union representatives against retaliatory defamation proceedings by perpetrators.

The findings and recommendations presented are based on a wide range of sources and methods, including:
A survey of UCU members which received nearly 4,000 responses.
A survey of UCU reps which received 100 responses.
A survey of professionals whose work covers this area, including officials in UCU and other
campus trade unions, lawyers, and other professionals.
Follow-up interviews with a number of respondents from the survey of professionals.
One-on-one conversations with survivors.
Creative submissions from Survivors Create! Online portal.
Written submissions from four of UCU’s national elected committees.
Other interviews and meetings with UCU committees, representatives and officials.

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