In the Media

Universities ignoring rape culture warnings, say campaigners (The Guardian)

Universities ignoring rape culture warnings, say campaigners

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.”