REPORTS of sexual violence and harassment made to Aberdeen University has nearly doubled in a year, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information Request by The National showed that the University’s own reporting tool went from seven reported cases of sexual violence or harassment in 2019/20 to 12 in 2020/21.

Of these, one allegation by a student, following a disciplinary investigation, has been upheld since 2017/18.

Despite this, it added there had been no expulsions of students for such behaviour in the same period.

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However, Aberdeen University said reports can be made anonymously and can concern incidents off-campus and where the perpetrator is not connected to the university.

As such, the number of reports “do not equate to the number of incidents that led to an investigation by the university under our disciplinary codes”.

The institution’s Report and Support tool was introduced in 2018 as the university’s principal reporting system.

The university, as well as Rape Crisis Scotland, have said a rise in reported sexual violence and harassment may not mean a rise in either being committed.

Nick Edwards, deputy director of people at the University of Aberdeen and a member of the Scottish Government’s Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities Leadership Group, said: “We take the welfare of all our students and staff extremely seriously and the University constantly reviews and makes enhancements to its support services, including those related to gender-based violence.

“In 2019 we joined with the Aberdeen University Students’ Association to launch our online confidential reporting tool - a support system to tackle gender-based violence, as part of the Equally Safe in Higher Education (ESHE) toolkit which aims to eradicate gender-based violence in higher education.

“This system aims to empower people to make reports of sexual violence or harassment they witness or experience on or off-campus and can be used to make a report or to seek support. It is open to all students, staff and visitors to our campuses.”

Edwards said it is likely that across society such issues have been underreported for many years.

The National: A model poses at the Archway rape and assault crisis centre  Picture: Mark Mainz

Increased awareness of sexual violence may be encouraging more people to make reports, a university staff member said

He continued: “Reporting tools such as this coupled with increased discussion about the issue more widely has raised awareness and empowered and enabled people who have experienced sexual violence or harassment to come forward.

“As people become more confident at making reports and speaking out about their experiences, I would expect to see a rise in disclosures across all aspects of society over time before any reduction is seen.”

Ivana Drdakova, vice president for welfare at the Aberdeen University Students’ Association said: “Any form of abuse or harassment should not have a place in modern society. These figures provide a partial picture of the actual situation.

“Students still find it hard to speak up about the trauma they experienced. The reporting system and procedures need to be transparent, so students are aware of how the cases are being handled.

“We’re looking forward to working with the University on reviewing the Student Code of Conduct and hope that it will result in offenders facing the consequences of their actions more often.” The university isn’t the only place to see a rise in these reports, as sex crimes across Scotland rose to a six-year high as lockdown eased earlier this year.


Rape Crisis Scotland chief executive Sandy Brindley said students should be able to study without the fear of sexual violence

Police Scotland said the number of reported rapes increased by more than a third to 631 between April and June, compared with the same period last year.

At the time, Rape Crisis Scotland chief executive Sally Brindley said it was “difficult to tell whether there have been more incidents of rape or whether more have been reported”.

Speaking about the rise in reported sexual violence and harassment at Aberdeen University, Brindley said it may not necessarily mean more violence is being perpetrated.

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She said: “All students should be able to study free from the fear and reality of sexual violence and yet these figures show that this is not the case for too many.

“It’s important to highlight that more reports do not necessarily mean more sexual violence is being perpetrated, and it can mean that an organisation or institution is engaging in work to create a culture where students feel safe and supported to come forward.

“However, there is always more that can be done by universities and colleges to prevent sexual violence and to ensure that every single student who experiences sexual violence is believed, supported, and has access to specialist support.

“This is work that we – and Rape Crisis centres across Scotland – support through our free eModule, First Responder training and Equally Safe programmes, ensuring that schools, colleges and universities have the tools and resources they need to show leadership in helping to end gender-based violence and supporting those affected by it.”