You report, we support

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At the University we are committed to ensuring we do everything we can to provide a safe and supportive environment for all our students, and respond appropriately to any incidents of sexual harassment or violence.

Sexual assault can take many different forms and covers a range of unwelcome sexual conduct, from inappropriate language to violent sexual assault. There doesn't need to have been physical contact for a sexual assault to have taken place.

We understand that any incident of sexual assault may leave you feeling a wide range of emotions including shock, distress, anger, guilt, helplessness, humiliation, and/or fear. It can be difficult to know what actions to take. Our aim is to provide you with all of the relevant information, so you can make an informed decision about what to do next. You are not obliged to report the assault to the University, but if you do decide to tell us we will be able to support you. 

Reporting an incident of sexual assault to the University

Our online reporting tool provides two options: to report and speak to a trained responder, or to report an incident anonymously. Our trained responders will help you explore all your options. You will be respected, listened to and empowered to make your own decisions.

We strongly advise that you read through all the information listed below before submitting a report. This will ensure that you are aware of your options and all the different sources of support available to you. 

Staff within the University can submit a disclosure on your behalf: this may be your Welfare or Personal Tutor, or staff within Student Accommodation or Security Services. They will make sure they have your permission before they submit any personal information on your behalf.    

Sexual Violence and Harassment Response Team 

If you decide you would like to speak with a trained responder, you will be asked for your contact information and your preferred mode of communication. Following the submission of your report, a trained responder will contact you by the end of the next working day. If you would prefer to speak with someone of a specific gender please make this known in your report.

Responders are staff who have been trained to support students who have experienced sexual assault. The responder will be able to provide information about all the options available to you, support you with managing your safety, signpost to specialist services and explain formal reporting and complaints procedures.

During your appointment you will have the opportunity to talk through the incident in as much or as little detail as you wish. The decision to talk about your experience is a personal choice, you do not have to share your experience with anyone until you feel ready. The appointment will give you the chance to explore all your options and make an informed decision.

If you would like to speak to a trained responder please use the online reporting tool or email responder@contacts.bham.ac.uk

Confidentiality

We understand that confidentiality and privacy is important and if you choose to report and speak to a responder we will aim to offer a confidential service. However, with all confidential services, there are some limits to the confidentiality we can provide. It may be necessary to disclose information about you in order to protect you or other people from risk or serious harm.

We will always ask for your consent in situations where there is no immediate concern to your safety or the safety of others. In some cases sharing information with other agencies, such as your GP, will allow us to respond more effectively and provide the best possible level of care. 

To find out how we will use and store any personal data you share with us, please read our privacy statements.

University disciplinary procedures

Please be aware that submitting a report is primarily about making a disclosure and accessing support. Submitting an online report will not automatically initiate University disciplinary procedures, this is a separate process.

If you do wish to make a formal report for the purposes of initiating an internal disciplinary process, we would advise that a meeting be arranged with Student Conduct; a responder can help arrange a meeting. This will make sure you are fully aware of what the process would involve before you submit a formal report to the Student Conduct office. You can contact the Student Conduct office by emailing conduct@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

Non-recent assaults

If you disclose details of an assault which happened before you came to the University, we can still provide wellbeing support, and help if you would like to be referred to the police or Horizon Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). You can use our online reporting tool or register directly with the Mental Health and Wellbeing service.

Reporting anonymously 

If you wish to remain anonymous, please select the option to remain anonymous on the online reporting tool. Please be aware, if you decide to remain anonymous the University will be unable to take any specific action regarding your report. However, your report will still be very valuable and the information will be utilised to better understand the volume, type and any patterns or trends with respect to sexual assault on campus, and to develop and implement targeted preventative efforts.   

Taking care of yourself after sexual assault

Looking after yourself is essential. Whether a sexual assault happened recently or years ago, self-care can help you cope with the short and long-term effects of a trauma like sexual assault. 

There is no right or wrong emotional response, each individual will have their own reaction. It is common to experience a mix of emotion and feelings; it is therefore important to seek support and practice active self-care.

The following advice may be helpful:

  • Be patient with yourself. You have had a traumatic experience and need to give yourself time, be kind to yourself. 
  • Get support from friends, family and/or from professional support services, whatever you feel comfortable with. One way of getting your feelings out is talking about how you feel. If you find it too traumatic to talk to others try writing it down or expressing your feelings through other creative outputs.  
  • It is not uncommon to feel isolated but it is important for you to reach out to those that are close to you. 
  • Sexual assault is extremely traumatic and may interrupt your life at university and can affect your relationships with your friends and family. Try not to go through this alone and allow others to help you explore the emotions and concerns you will have. 
  • It is important to look after your physical health. Try to maintain a balanced diet and sleep cycle as much as possible; looking after your physical health will help you deal with the emotional stress.  
  • Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities you enjoy and find relaxing. Try some stress reduction techniques including relaxation exercise such as yoga and meditation. Do something for yourself everyday.

Reporting to the police

If the assault has just occurred you might want to consider whether you feel safe where you are. If you feel that you or others are at risk or consider the situation to be an emergency, you can call the police or an ambulance on 999. If you are in University accommodation or on campus it is advisable to call security on 0121 414 4444, to let them know that the emergency services have been called so that they can give them access. 

If it is not an emergency you can still report the incident to the police by calling 101. You can request to talk to the Rape Investigation Team directly.

The police can take you to Horizon Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) where you can have a forensic medical examination and receive medical and emotional help.

To help get the best quality forensic evidence, SARC recommends that you try not to eat, drink, smoke, wash, change your clothes, go to the toilet or clear up the area where the assault took place. If you need to go to the toilet collect a sample and the paper in separate bags. If you have done any of these things, don’t worry, it is often possible to get some forensic evidence, so this should not stop you reporting.

Time limits to be aware of:

  • If you suspect you were given any type of drug, it is best to be tested within 24 hours.
  • If you would like emergency contraception, the medication should be started within 72 hours.
  • If you would like HIV prophylaxis, the medication should be started within 72 hours

Any forensic evidence collected can be stored whilst you decide what to do next. Please see section on collection of forensic evidence.

It is up to you to choose what kind of support you want to access, but you might want to consider getting medical attention even if you do not want to report the assault to the Police.

Police procedures 

Please see the West Midlands Police website for detailed information on reporting a sexual assault. 

Reporting at a police station and/or attending a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) can be a very lengthy process, but you will be listened to and supported throughout the process. It might be helpful to bring along a supportive friend or relative. 

If you have not changed your clothes since the incident, it is advisable to bring a spare set of clothes as the police may need to keep the clothes you are wearing as evidence. 

When you give your statement to the police try not to leave anything out, however embarrassing or painful it may be. If you can’t remember something, it is ok to say so. Don’t be afraid to tell the truth about things like how much you had to drink, or using recreational drugs; if the truth comes out later it may harm the chances of prosecution. 

Reporting later

Many people do not wish to report immediately, but decide after a while that they want to do so. This is perfectly acceptable and there is no time limit for investigation by the police and prosecuting incidents of sexual assault.  

If you are not sure what to do, you can go to Horizon Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) or talk to the Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP), which is situated in Birmingham City Centre. They can talk you through the different options that are available. 

A key consideration when reporting non-recent assaults is the fact that forensic evidence is no longer available and cannot be considered if not previously preserved. However, your strongest piece of evidence is your account of what happened.

Alternative to reporting to the police - Horizon Sexual Assault Referral Centre

If you would rather not make a report to the police, you still have the option to directly contact Horizon Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). Horizon SARC is an organisation that provides support and advice to people who have experienced rape and sexual assault.

Even if you are not currently thinking about reporting to the police, Horizon SARC offer the option to preserve forensic evidence, which could later be used in an investigation. If you wish, they can keep DNA results on record and let you know if it matches with other reported assaults, still with no obligation on you to report. 

With your consent, staff from SARC can share details of the incident, such as location of assault and a description of perpetrator, with the police. This can be done anonymously or with your details, but no action will be taken without your full, prior consent. Sharing of this sort of information can help the police to identify trends in assault and may help prevent future incidents.

Contact details for Horizon SARC

 Supporting someone else

When someone you know has been sexually assaulted, it can be a frightening and confusing time for them and for you. It is important that they are aware of the support available from the University and external support services.

A sexual assault can also impact the victim's friends, families and those that support them within the University community. If you are concerned about the wellbeing of another student and would like to talk to someone, please email responder@contacts.bham.ac.uk or use the online reporting tool. If they need urgent assistance please contact the police and/or Horizon Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). 

You may wish to consider the following advice on how to offer support: 

  • It is important that the person who has been sexually assaulted feels that they are believed. Make sure that you remain non-judgmental. Often survivors can blame themselves, feelings of guilt and shame are not uncommon so it is important that they know the sexual assault is not their fault. 
  • Try to be supportive without giving advice. It is important that the individual can determine how to proceed and feel that they can make the decisions. Accept it is the person's choice of what to do. It may be helpful to look at the options, then encourage independent decision making, even if you disagree. 
  • Don't ask why the assault happened, this may lead to the person feeling they could have done something to prevent the assault - which they couldn't.
  • Look after yourself. It is important that you take care of yourself and seek support if needed. It is common to need support when supporting someone else.
  • Be patient. They may not want to talk right now and you may feel that you are not doing enough but just being there may be all they need at the moment. It is important that you don't force an individual to give you information. 
  • Encourage and empower the individual to get support from professional services.

 External support services 

Horizon Sexual Assault Referral Centre

Horizon Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) provides people who have experienced rape and sexual assault within the West Midlands with support and advice to assist in their recovery. 

Rape and Sexual Violence Project

The Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) offer a wide range of services to people who have sexual assault or the people supporting them. Their services include counselling and Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVA), who offer practical and emotional support, ensuring that your views, opinions, wishes and feelings are respected, and listened to by all agencies and people involved.

Sexual health support

Umbrella 

Umbrella is an organisation which offers various services relating to sexual health, for example, self-sampling STI kits that can be ordered online.

National sexual health helpline

The national sexual health helpline number is 0800 567 123 and it is free to call. For more information please visit the NHS's 'Where can I get sexual health advice, now?' webpage.

Birmingham LGBT 

Birmingham LGBT offers a range of services focused on improving the health and wellbeing of individuals, including sexual health support, LGBT Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVA) and wellbeing support services. 

Dedicated support for men

SurvivorsUK

SurvivorsUK offer a range of support services, including counselling, therapy appointments and online chat. The organisation was established as a service for male survivors, however they are an inclusive service and welcome anyone who identifies as male, trans, non-binary, has identified as male in the past, or anyone who feels that we are the right fit for them.

Safeline

Safeline has a national male helpline and online support for men affected by rape or sexual abuse. 

This guidance was produced with assistance from Horizon Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) and based on the University of Cambridge’s 'Rape & Sexual Assault: Information for Students' and 'Rape & Sexual Assault Information for Staff'.