By Rimante Bivainyte
A female student who was raped by her partner after few weeks after starting Cardiff University several years ago has welcomed a new anonymous system by Cardiff University to report sexual violence and abuse. She stated that she did not get the proper support from student services at the time, hence she turned to drugs to erase her traumatic experience and fallen grades. A student recalled her experience by talking how she had gone away for a weekend with her partner who then raped her. She said that after the incident she was confused and did not know what to do as she was questioning if what took place was rape due to the fact that he was her partner. ‘It was not consensual, and I explicitly pleaded for him to stop – it was rape. That Monday I physically could not walk into my university building due to the panic attack and staggered in the park opposite. I called my mum, who instructed me to go to the student support centre immediately.’
A female student vaguely knew where the centre was due to the induction lectures, nonetheless, she did not want to ask for help, ‘it would mean divulging what had happened’. ‘That phenomenon of victim-blaming had been internalised in me and I wrongly blamed myself for what was someone else’s actions. Despite this I went in and asked for help looking catastrophic. They refused to see me as I had not had a GP yet but offered that if I waited four hours until drop-in someone could see me then. ‘One member of staff protested and argued that ‘she clearly needs help’ – however this was not enough to break protocol. After being denied support I had the impression he university was not concerned with what happened to me.’ A student noted that months that followed were dark regarding her turning to drugs to escape the trauma and ‘the flashbacks of resulting post-traumatic stress disorder’, moreover, the attendance and performance fallen from a first class to barely a pass.
According to the student, the university’s new anonymous disclosure system – which is the only one of this kind in the UK that includes dedicated team of staff – would have prevented her fallen grades and a ‘drug escape’. Since October last year appointed staff on the Disclosure Response Team is processing reports made to it of violence and abuse on and off campus, including any disclosure of sexual violence. Before the Disclosure Response Team was launched students had variety of options to report incidents of sexual violence such as academic staff, counselling and wellbeing services or Students’ Union, however, disclosures were not recorded in a systematic way, hence there was no accurate information.
A director of student support and wellbeing, Ben Lewis said: ‘Cardiff University wants to deliver an exceptional student experience. We recognized we could things better in responding to this important issue. This project is about addressing concerns and ensuring our students get the support they need when they need it. Creating a new to supporting people who are victims of violence and abuse is important to us.’