Five sexual assaults were reported to UCD campus security between 2014 and 2016. Eleven students have also reported instances of harassment to campus services since 2014.
An internal campus services report into student’s personal safety on campus, obtained by the Tribune, show a marked rise in reports of sexual assault and harassment on campus. In 2016 two sexual assaults were reported by students to UCD campus services, three cases of sexual assault were recorded in 2014. Four of the five alleged assaults happened on campus, and no instances of sexual assault were reported in 2015, or between 2011 and 2013.
The confidential report details that between 2016 and 2014, eleven cases of harassment were brought to UCD campus services. No reports were made by students between 2011 and 2013, and only one was registered for 2014. But five instances were reported in both 2015 and 2016.
The document also reveals there was six reports of sexual offenders being on or near the UCD campus between 2011 and 2016, with an increase in alleged sightings from 2014. One reported sighting of a sexual offender on the campus was made in 2016, 2015 and 2013, and two reported sightings were recorded in 2014.
Following the high-profile reported rape on campus in November 2016 the number of students requesting the UCD ‘Walk Safe’ service increased dramatically. ‘Walk Safe’ is a service where students can call campus security to escort them across campus at night. 20 students used the service in November 2016, and 37 requested it in December. The service was used just six times between January and October 2016, as it was only publicly advertised following the alleged rape in November
The Walk Safe service was used just six times between January and October 2016, as it was only publicly advertised following the alleged rape in November.
Two UCD students, one who was raped, and one who was the victim of sexual harassment, spoke to the Tribune about their experience dealing with the college after their incidents.
One second year BA International student, who asked to remain anonymous, said that in her first semester in UCD she had been the victim of a rape. She detailed that her alleged rapist had been a mature student who she knew, and following the incident she went to both the Gardaí and UCD. She said while the Gardaí were dealing with the criminal investigation she sought support from the college. She described that following her rape she had been constantly afraid she would see her rapist on campus, and didn’t feel safe. ‘I’m a victim, I’m a student, I deserve safety, I deserve protection, and I deserve to be able to go to college without living in fear, and I deserve support I doing that’. It ‘affected my ability to concentrate in classes, but also affected my ability to socialise normally and lead a typical student college life as I had done so before’ she stated. ‘For the longest time my body did not feel as if it were my own. I was unable to look in the mirror because it felt as though I was looking at someone else’s body. So, I kept the mirrors covered. I could not wear dresses’.
The student said she had gone to UCD with her safety concerns, but claimed that the college just advised her to seek counselling support. She said the process of getting support for students who have been victims of sexual assault was inadequate, and no one seemed to be responsible for the issue within the college administration. The student said she was just ‘bounced around without anybody actually giving me any sort of solid thing that I could do in order to ensure my safety. Nobody knew where to throw me, nobody knew where to send me next’.
The college she said is more concerned with not discommoding the alleged perpetrators than protecting the victims. ‘I’m tired of fighting an institution that is refusing to change, or refusing to acknowledge what’s happening’ she said. The college need to be more proactive in supporting victims and make it easier to find information or make an official complaint against perpetrators of sexual abuse or harass- ment she said.
Another student who worked as a Residential Assistant in UCD’s on-campus accommodation outlined that she had been sexually harassed during her work in campus residences. The student said a group of five male students who lived in the same campus accommodation bloc as her, started to harass her. She described that they left derogatory sexual notes under her door, repeatedly knocked on her door before running away, and in one instances yelled ‘bitch’ at her from a window.
The student said she reported the issue to campus residential management. ‘In the meantime I was moved to an alternative residence, while the boys were undisturbed’ she said. ‘I was later told that the boys had been fined as punishment and would continue to live in the residence, for which I would continue to be responsible’.
‘I was informed that I could pursue the issue further with the university, but that I should consider their [the five boys’] academic futures, and if I wanted to be responsible for damaging them’. The student said the harassment was ‘degrading’ and that her ‘dignity had been monetised as the solution’. The college had simply taught the five male students that ‘they can degrade women and pay to get away with it’ she stated.
‘I was informed that I could pursue the issue further with the university, but that I should consider their [the five boys] academic futures’.
A spokesman from UCD responded to queries from the Tribune on the rise in reports of sexual assault and harassment on campus since 2014 to say that the incidents were ‘allegations of’ sexual assault and harassment. They did not comment on what steps UCD are taking to combat the issue of sexual assault and harassment on campus.
The Student Union President Conor Viscardi said the SU have been lobbying UCD to support an EU-backed project run by the National Women’s Council of Ireland, ‘Ending Sexual Harassment in Third-Level Education’. Viscardi said ‘there is no excusing the college’s failure to act in the past, and it led to a public clash between us and university management last year’. But stated he hoped the UCD administration would now come on board alongside the SU in joining the Women’s Council of Ireland campaign. The project’s first public campaign titled ‘It Stops Now’ would be starting in early April Viscardi stated. ‘The project focuses on creating a proper framework in participating colleges and universities for reports of sexual assault and harassment. As well as a community approach to talking about and emphasizing the importance of sexual consent’ he said.
Viscardi said ‘there is no excusing the college’s failure to act in the past’.
In late November 2016 the Gardaí announced they were investigating a reported rape on the UCD campus. A spokesperson from an Garda Síochána confirmed the ‘matter is still the subject of a Garda investigation’.
The leaked campus services report high- lighted how security is looking to improve the safety of students on campus. In November 2016 campus services formed ‘Unicare’ a personal safety awareness programme. The programme is aimed at raising awareness of personal safety supports available to students like ‘Walk Safe’. The report stated the university’s plan was to roll out an advertising campaign aimed at all students this semester. However, the widespread personal safety ‘Unicare’ campaign has yet to be launched by the college. The report was presented to the UCD ‘Student Experience Group’ subcommittee on January 30th.
The university is also currently reforming its Dignity and Respect policy, which outlines how students can seek help or lodge a formal complaint to the university if they are the victim of harassment. Prof Colin Scott, the university’s vice-President for equality, diversity and inclusion, said a ‘revised policy and procedure’ has been drawn up. One internal source outlined the new proposed policy gave much more prominence to the issue of sexual harassment on campus. ‘We are preparing for a consultation process [on the new policy], which I expect to place over the next couple of months’ Prof Scott stated.
Jack Power | Editor