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The Reclaim Report: An Analysis of UK universities’ sexual misconduct policies

This blog was written by Reclaim The Campus- a campaign addressing the prominent issue of sexual harassment and assault in Higher Education.

This blog was written for WBG’s Early Career Network by Reclaim The Campus – a campaign run by students (and recent graduates) for students, to address the prominent issue of sexual harassment and assault in Higher Education. You can gain access to the full report and contact the campaign by emailing:

Early on in 2020, as the COVID-19 started to disrupt our student experiences, studies and lives – a group of students and survivors came together to form Reclaim the Campus. A student and survivor led campaign group that was established to understand and address issues of sexual violence within Higher Education settings. Founding members, as well as subsequent ones, were motivated to get involved for a range of reasons, but a consistently shared one was the observed or experienced failures of our universities to support survivors of sexual harassment and violence.

With a backdrop of a global pandemic, final examinations and social distancing measurements. The establishment of our campaign may have appeared to be an ill-timed one. But limited social interactions did not guarantee limited opportunities for abuse and with studies and lives moving online – so did abuse and harassment. Outside of the digital realm, a Freedom of Information request filed as part of our research efforts uncovered that a certain institution attended by one of our members had not seen a reduction in reported incidents of sexual harassment and rape. Further illustrating to us the importance of advocating for safety and sexual violence free education even with everything else going on.

An issue not isolated to our campaign interest area, the COVID-19 pandemic remained a time as dangerous as ever for sexual violence.

With our various experiences and insights some persistent questions kept coming up. Why were so many students being failed? What responsibility did universities have to protect their students – if any? Did there exist any consequences for universities failing to tackle sexual violence? These questions led and encouraged us to turn to policy. And so we started to compare, evaluate and scrutinise the policies at our respective intuitions and dozens across the UK. All of this with an aim to understand how the UK-wide policy landscape incorporated these issues and what was determined by institutions themselves. What we wanted to uncover was why there was such a gap between what student-survivors needed and wanted in comparison to what was already in place.

After months of research as a fully remote team working in our spare time, we decided to summarise our findings within a report that was launched in the June of this year. The Reclaim Report – was a cumulation of our findings and a piece of work we believe offers value because of our proximity to and our lived experiences as people touched by the issues we investigated. Though we were not a group of experts but rather students, who in most part had research experience confined to our degrees, we believe that our passion and in-depth exposure allowed us a unique standpoint from which to undertake this work.   

Statistics from The Reclaim Report

Statistics from The Reclaim Report

In part, the issues we cover have been caused by a lack of representation or consideration for the needs of survivors, when it comes to devising and implementing policies. The need for gender sensitive policy and representation of different lived experiences, ideas that I had first been introduced to over the course of my undergraduate studies through interacting with the WBG’s Early-Career Network and on a personal level was instrumental in encouraging my participation in the campaign.

My experience of the campaign has been educational on many fronts and we all at some points have had ideas challenged, and on other occasions, suspicions confirmed. Reflecting on the experience, what has continued to inspire us has been the importance of centring survivors when it comes to policies that are designed to protect them. This is something we are seeking not just at an institutional level or within the Higher Education industry, but want to see in every aspect of UK and international policy.

Visit the website to find out more about the campaign. 

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