Scottish Conservatives call for investigation into Edinburgh University’s handling of sexual violence

Two students claim the university told them not to report abuse to the police

The Scottish Conservatives are calling for an independent investigation into claims that Edinburgh University warned students against reporting sexual abuse to the police.

The party’s higher education spokeswoman, Pam Gosal, said the allegations were “very concerning” and called on First Minister Humza Yousaf to ensure that an independent investigation takes place.

Two students have come forward to allege that Edinburgh University staff discouraged them from making criminal complaints because it would interfere with the university’s investigations. University officials allegedly told one student that a police inquiry would be “brutal.”

Final year student Aarti Mukhedkar says she was told that if she informed law enforcement of her experience with sexual abuse on campus she would not be protected by the university, according to The Times newspaper.

Aarti, who has campaigned to highlight the so-called “rape culture” on Edinburgh’s campus, said she was told by staff she would not be protected by the university if she went to the police. The student’s petition to reform the university’s sexual assault redressal system garnered over 60,000 signatures last year.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, she described her experience: “I reached out to [a staff member] and she discouraged me from going to the police or even making a complaint. She said that I didn’t really have any chance [of an investigation] but if I wanted to, I should go with the university because if I go with the police, the university won’t protect me. They won’t support me”.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh University told the newspaper that it “does not discourage or prevent students from reporting any incident to the police”.

“While we cannot comment on individual cases, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority. We do not tolerate sexual violence within our community and investigate all reports made to us thoroughly”, it added.

Aarti’s words are echoed by a second student who has since graduated from the university, who claims she was discouraged from going to the police because “a police investigation could be a lot more brutal than a university investigation, and a lot more difficult for me”.

Pam Gosal, a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for West Scotland called the situation “unacceptable and frankly wrong”.

The MSP has asked ministers to update the sexual assault guidance provided to universities: “Survivors of sexual assault must be fully supported to report crimes against them. They should never be advised to keep silent”.

The University of Edinburgh was contacted for additional comment directly by the Edinburgh Tab.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story contact Refuge on their free 24/7 helpline 0808 2000 247 or contact Rape Crisis online for a free confidential chat helpline. 

Featured image via YouTube.

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