‘I was sexually assaulted by my coursemate’
I am telling you about my experience to help reveal an issue prevalent on campuses across the country and, until recently, not spoken about. I hope my story will bring to light the problem of sexual assault that can shatter people’s experience of university, like it did for me. And I hope that through this, with the universities’ help, we can make higher education a safer place for all.
I wanted to go to university because I wanted to learn. I wanted to go to UCL because I was naïvely under the illusion that a university with high entrance requirements was somewhere exciting to study.
Instead I found it suffocating and soul destroying. I never expected a degree to be easy but what I experienced made my academic goals impossible in ways that no one should ever expect.
At the end of my second year I was sexually assaulted and consequently hospitalised by a fellow UCL student, an international student from Italy.
I reported this case to the police, twice. The first time I reported it was on UCL premises and the second time was into a camera at a police station. The video was sent via Interpol to the Italian police as the case was ultimately a matter of Italian jurisdiction. I was told the waiting time would be a few weeks. This turned into about fifteen months.
During this time I set out to redo second year of my physics degree. Lecturers told me that I could come to their lectures and they would send me updates on course notes. I could use the library. It was important to me that I stayed close to campus, not only for academic purposes but also to be close to supportive friends and a lively student atmosphere that made redoing a year bearable.
I do not want to be a victim, I do not want to be tossed to the wayside. I want to triumph.
None of this, however, was possible because the person I reported to the police was also still a UCL student. He remained unconvicted and, more worryingly roaming free on campus among fellow female students. I was told not to be on campus for my safety, with the exception of end of year exams.
Updates on course notes did not come and despite my best efforts communication with UCL was sparse. I studied but not well enough and failed half the end of year exams.
The college informed me that I could retake two exams at the end of the summer and another the following year while doing third year. But I made the difficult decision to leave UCL and transfer elsewhere for the completion of my degree. I was simply exhausted of fighting my corner and did not want to remain at an institution that clearly did not value me or respect my rights.
I have asked myself why I persisted with my degree at all. The truth is that I have persisted because like learning.I studied physics because I find the laws of nature beautiful, and because that is what I wanted to do. I was not going to let something like this get in the way.
UCL neglect their duty of care
I do not want to be a victim, I do not want to be tossed to the wayside. I want to triumph. I also felt that as a woman studying physics, a male dominated field, it was more important that I do not give up. My third attempt at second year was not without challenges, but it was a triumph. I completed it at the Open University with marks near 100%.
I don’t hold a grudge against UCL but I do worry that others may find themselves in similar circumstances.
UCL, as an institution, does not appear to care about the welfare and wellbeing of it’s students that have clamoured for places and pay extortionate fees to be there. They run themselves like a business, for a profit, for fame and league table positions.
Yes, the college produces world-class research, but like all universities, it is also supposed to be a place of learning for young people who go there to prepare themselves for life. This is a huge responsibly, and one that should be taken very seriously. UCL does not take this responsibility seriously at all. They neglect their duty of care, an in neglecting this they neglect more than just the futures of individuals.