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Sexual Harassment and Assault

St Mary’s is committed to providing a safe environment where all students, staff and visitors are treated with dignity and respect and are free from victimisation, bullying, or harassment. This includes any forms of sexual harassment or sexual assault, St Mary’s does not tolerate any behaviour of this kind and takes all reports of this nature seriously.

The content on this page includes policies and guidance for staff regarding sexual assault and harassment. For information for students, please see the Sexual Harassment and Assault page on SIMMSpace.

Sexual harassment comes in many forms and includes a range of inappropriate and unwanted behaviour including, but not limited to:

  • unwanted sexual advances or touching
  • sexually degrading or abusive comments or gestures
  • emails or messages with sexual content
  • sharing sexually explicit materials (such as images, videos or links) in person or in any digital space.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome behaviour which violates a person’s dignity, makes an individual feel intimidated or degraded, or creates an offensive environment. You don’t have to have objected to a certain kind of behaviour in the past for it to be unwanted and constitute harassment.

Sexual assault is any physical, psychological and emotional violation when an individual is forced into sexual activity without giving their consent. This includes, but is not limited to the most severe physical offences, including rape. It can also involve forcing someone to witness sexual activity.

Rape and sexual assault are traumatic experiences which can have long term physical and emotional effects on an individual. Reactions to sexual assault are always different, an individual might feel ashamed, depressed, numb, or in shock and have flashbacks.

How an individual behaves, how they dress or how much they drink is never a justification for assault and it is never the survivors fault.

It can be a difficult decision to come forward and report incidents of sexual assault or sexual harassment but there is support available both within and external to the University to anyone who has experienced this at any time in their life whether they want to report the incident or not.

The decision about whether or not to make a report is entirely up to the individual and there are different reporting options designed to ensure that students do not feel that there are barriers to them taking their desired action. This section gives you more information if you wish to report an incident involving another student or a member of staff, either to the University to pursue disciplinary action, or to the Police to pursue criminal proceedings.

Is it an emergency?

  • Is someone in immediate danger?
  • Is a crime taking place or has one just happened?
  • If so, call 999 now and ask for the police.
  • For incidences on campus you can also contact St Mary’s Security Services team. They provide 24 hour security to ensure the safety and security of students, staff and the campus environment.

Reporting an incident to the University

A member of staff wishing to make a complaint to the University about another staff member can do so through the dignity at work or grievance procedure. Any complaints in relation to a student can be done so through the student disciplinary procedure.

The University does not have the power to investigate crimes but would investigate any incidences of misconduct under the relevant staff or student disciplinary procedures.

Sexual Assault or Sexual Harassment are deemed as gross misconduct and could result in expulsion or dismissal from the University. The University may also impose temporary sanctions such as suspension until any investigations have been concluded.

When reporting an incident you will be taken seriously, your feelings and decisions will be respected and the University will ensure that you have access to relevant support services.

The Human Resources department are able to advise staff on the reporting process and policy details. The University’s free and confidential Employee Assistance Programme is available to support any staff going through the reporting process.

Reporting an incident to the police

Deciding whether or not to report an incident to the police can be a difficult decision. If you wish to report an incident of sexual assault or harassment there are a number of ways to do so, either by calling 101, online or in person at a local police station. Report online or find your local police station (London).

You do not have to decide whether or not to report the incident to the police immediately. It is quite normal for people to not want to make a report initially, but to decide after a while that they want to. If you do not want to make a police report yet, but would like to retain this option for future, you can go to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) such as the Havens. The Havens is a specialist centre in London for victims of serious sexual assault, they offer emotional support as well as medical help. They are also able to provide a forensic medical examination which may help with any investigation. Evidence collected by the Havens can stored while you decide what to do next.

Where there are criminal proceedings against another staff member or a student, the University may defer any disciplinary proceedings, and may also impose temporary measures such as suspension, until any police investigation has been concluded. In matters involving a criminal investigation, the University with liaise with the Police throughout the investigation. More information about criminal proceedings.

It can be a difficult decision to come forward and talk about, but if you have been sexually assaulted or experienced sexual harassment you do not have to cope alone.

Internal support

The University’s free and confidential Employee Assistance Programme can signpost staff members to relevant local support services. The Human Resources team are also available to provide support to staff.

External support

There are also a number of external organisations both locally and nationally that provide specialist support and information. Download a list of External Support Services.

If a friend, colleague, or one of your students confides in you that they have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault, they are showing a great deal of trust in you. A few key things you can do to support them:

  • Listen. Let them tell you what happened in their own words and don’t try to investigate or question their account.
  • Ask them what they want to do and don’t pressure them to make a decision. Sometimes they might not be ready to come forward and ask for support.
  • Let them know that support is available through the University or via external sources.

If a student comes to you in a crisis situation you may wish to consider contacting security services (general/emergency 4335/4060), Student Services (4353 during office hours) or the on duty Resident Mentor (for residential students outside of office hours - contacted via Security).

Advise the student not to have a drink, shower, or change their clothes and whilst you might want to comfort them, do not hug them or have any unnecessary physical contact as this could contaminate any forensic evidence.