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Student left ‘in limbo’ by university for months after alleged sexual assault

PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 February 2020

A University of East Anglia (UEA) student who said she was sexually assaulted after a campus club night claims she was left in limbo for five months before the university investigated her complaint. Pictured, the University of East Anglia campus in Norwich. Photo: UEA

A University of East Anglia (UEA) student who said she was sexually assaulted after a campus club night claims she was left in limbo for five months before the university investigated her complaint. Pictured, the University of East Anglia campus in Norwich. Photo: UEA

UEA

The University of East Anglia has been criticised for its handling of an alleged sex attack on a student.

A University of East Anglia (UEA) student who said she was sexually assaulted after a campus club night claims she was left in limbo for five months before the university investigated her complaint. Pictured, the University of East Anglia campus in Norwich. Photo: Getty ImagesA University of East Anglia (UEA) student who said she was sexually assaulted after a campus club night claims she was left in limbo for five months before the university investigated her complaint. Pictured, the University of East Anglia campus in Norwich. Photo: Getty Images

The university said it was reviewing its processes for when incidents were reported and how it supported students.

Amy Cooper, not her real name, told the UEA student newspaper Concrete, she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student after a night out at the LCR in September 2018.

She had returned to her boyfriend's house and had fallen asleep before being woken up to a man touching her.

She said the attack left her feeling "used - like I wasn't really a person". She added: "I was just an object."

Amy said she struggled with her mental health in the months following the alleged assault and told a university lecturer she was "traumatised" in an email sent seven months after the incident.

The university's delayed response to her complaint was "a slap in the face", she said.

Although Norfolk police investigated the incident and a man in his 20s was arrested and questioned, he was never charged.

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Amy was told that during the police investigation the man said the incident was consensual, however, she said: "I don't really know how someone can get consent from someone who is sleeping.

"I honestly feel traumatised and I feel scared walking around campus, thinking about whether he is nearby."

Amy told the UEA the police had concluded their investigation in an email on November 26, 2018, although she was unaware this was supposed to trigger the university's investigation.

When the university finally did investigate, five months after Amy had notified them the police investigation had concluded, they told her there was "insufficient evidence to establish" whether the incident had happened.

A university spokesman said: "The university takes all reports or disclosures of sexual misconduct extremely seriously, and all reports are thoroughly investigated.

"We are continually reviewing our procedures around disclosures of incidents and how we support students involved in these processes.

"Due to issues of confidentiality surrounding student discipline committee hearings, it would be inappropriate for the university to comment on individual cases.

"The UEA has worked with the students' union for many years on the Never OK campaign to create a culture of zero tolerance towards issues of harassment, and have also recently brought in the Report and Support site to allow anyone to report incidents or to directly request support from an adviser.

"We're wholly committed to implementing the recommendations of the Universities UK 'Changing the Culture' report, and we are also working with the Office for Students on their consultation on harassment and sexual misconduct in higher education."

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