Universities ignoring rape culture warnings, say campaigners (The Guardian)
Institutions told they are exposing themselves to lawsuits as students face postcode lottery on support.
Georgina Calvert-Lee, head of UK practice at the law firm McAllister Olivarius, said universities were in breach of their duty of care to protect students and staff if they did not provide a campus free of discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Calvert-Lee, who represented two victims of the Warwick University rape chat scandal in which female students were the subject of violent sexual comments by a group of male undergraduates, said the vast majority of cases were settled and added that it might take a case to go to the high court to accelerate change in university cultures.
“Universities are absolutely exposing themselves to lawsuits brought by victims of sexual assault, because they have a duty of care to their students,” she said, adding that in the 30-40 cases she had dealt with she had not seen a university with a “fair” complaints procedure, which gave equal rights to the parties involved. Due, in part, to fears about privacy laws, complainants were treated only as witnesses, with no right to rebut counter-claims about their credibility made by the accused, she said.
“We say that is a breach of duty of care; we also say it’s discriminatory,” she said. “Having a system that systematically favours the accused over the complainant amounts to indirect discrimination because it puts women, who are more likely to be complainants than accused, at a particular disadvantage.”