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UCD Campus Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

Student considered moving university over way her sexual assault allegation was handled

Gardaí are investigating the alleged incident, which occurred on 31 October last year.

A STUDENT FROM University College Dublin has spoken out about student safety after gardaí said they were investigating an alleged sexual assault on campus.

The student, who is not the focus of this investigation, said she was sexually assaulted in October 2015.

The incident did not occur at UCD Belfield. She is now campaigning for universities to ensure their students feel safe on campus.

The second year student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she considered moving universities over the way her allegation was handled.

Gardaí confirmed they were investigating an alleged assault on a female that occurred between midnight and 9am on 31 October 2015.

Nobody has been charged in connection with the incident. Last week it was reported that gardaí are investigating a recent case involving an alleged sexual assault that took place on the UCD Belfield campus on Thursday 24 November between 10am and 11.30pm.

There is no suggestion the two incidents are linked.

“I deserve protection”

The UCD student who was allegedly assaulted last year said when she approached the college for support she was referred to counselling services.

“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 in doing that,” she stated.

The student felt one of the only realistic options she was left with was to consider moving college.

“The fact that I should have to consider leaving my friends, the course that I worked incredibly hard to get into, the fact that I should have to leave that it feels like a punishment.

“How am I supposed to progress with my academics if I just don’t feel safe?” she said.

There is “no visible system in place” to help students report a case of sexual assault or rape to the college, she said.

Describing her own experience trying to follow up and place an official complaint with the university, she described how she was just “being 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. UCD should have a dedicated place or point of contact that’s visible and advertised to students that they can go to if they have been a victim of sexual assault or harassment on campus.

“I have spoken to other victims of harassment, to assault, to rapes who have reported it to UCD, and have heard horrific things, with it not being dealt with, with it being brushed under the carpet,” she claimed. “I’m tired of fighting an institution that is refusing to change, or refusing to acknowledge what’s happening,” she said.

Security concerns

The student, who had just started her first semester of college when the alleged assault took place, said the problem of sexual assault and harassment, and even rape on college campuses isn’t unique to UCD. She said that each college is afraid of being the “first to come forward and admit we have a problem”.

“When UCD’s image is at stake,” she claimed, “there is action”.

Following the separate recent report of an alleged rape on the South Dublin campus the UCD Students’ Union stated they “requested that the college issue an all student email about supports on campus for students feeling unsafe”.

The Students’ Union said they are also lobbying the college for more frequent “patrols of campus security” at night, and to “increase extra lighting” on the Belfield campus.

A spokesperson from the university stated that while they wouldn’t comment on individual cases, “where a student has a specific security concern, UCD offers to meet them to look at options that address their particular circumstances”.

The college said it provides an emergency Walk Safe service “for students who wish to be accompanied from one location to another at night” and operates “24/7 security patrols”.

In relation to criminal incidents and sexual assaults, the UCD spokesperson outlined that “Donnybrook Garda Station takes responsibility for Belfield campus and Blackrock Garda Station takes responsibility for Carysfort Campus”.

University College Dublin is in the process of reforming its dignity and respect policy, which covers incidents of sexual assault or harassment in the college.

The review will consult college the Students’ Union, academic staff and the wider student body from early 2017, a source within UCD outlined.

The UCD spokesperson confirmed the college has been “reviewing its dignity and respect policy” over the past year.

The current policy states that if a student wishes to submit a complaint regarding an incident of sexual harassment or assault they can file a written complaint to the administration building on campus.

Following a higher education government report earlier this year, universities in the UK have looked at implementing a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment.

Read: Gardaí investigating alleged sexual assault at UCD campus>

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