Our Safeguarding policies make clear that we do not tolerate sexual misconduct, violence or abuse.
We want to support anyone who has experienced such behaviours as we recognise the personal and emotional impact such incidents can have, and how difficult these experiences can be.
Sexual Misconduct covers a broad range of inappropriate and unwanted behaviours of a sexual nature. It covers all forms of sexual violence, including:
- sex without consent, sexual abuse (including online and image-based abuse),
- non-consensual sexual touching,
- sexual harassment (unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which violates your dignity; makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated or creates a hostile or offensive environment),
- abusive or degrading remarks of a sexual nature,
- and a vast range of other behaviours.
If you have an experience which is not covered by these definitions, or you are unsure of the nature of your experience, we can support you. Please do not let limited definitions prevent you from seeking support.
All of these behaviours are equally unacceptable. If this happens to you, it’s important to remember it is not your fault.
Listed below are a few, but not an exhaustive list of examples of Sexual Misconduct. If your experience is not on the list, but it has made you feel uncomfortable, we can still support you.
- Sexually suggestive comments, for example remarking on your body or appearance, or name calling.
- Sexual jokes that make you feel uncomfortable, offended or intimidated,
- Leering’ or unwanted and inappropriate sexual propositions, whether in person, or online.
- If someone intentionally grabs or touches you in a sexual way that you don’t like, or you’re forced to kiss someone or do something else sexual against your will;
- this includes sexual touching of any part of someone’s body, and it makes no difference whether you’re wearing clothes or not.
- If a man forces you to have penetrative sex, or has sex with you without your consent or agreement, that’s rape. Rape includes penetration with his penis of the vagina, anus or mouth without consent. Both men and women can be raped but only men can commit rape.
- If someone sexually assaults you by penetrating you with another part of their body or another object, this is classed as ‘assault by penetration’ but will be treated similarly to rape.
Online Sexual Misconduct is equally as serious as face-to-face or physical Sexual Misconduct.
What is sexual violence?- Rape Crisis England and Wales
What is sexual harassment?- ACAS
What is rape and sexual assault?- Metropolitan Police
Online Sexual Misconduct
It is important to note that online Sexual Misconduct is taken equally as seriously as offline Sexual Misconduct.
Understanding and communicating consent and respect in an online world can be difficult, more difficult than face-to-face.
If someone attacks, harasses or threatens you online, it’s not your fault, even if you haven’t previously taken any safety precautions.
Whether your experience was recent or a long time ago, there is support available and you are not alone.
It’s never your fault.
It is key therefore, to understand what behaviours constitute online Sexual Misconduct. All of the examples listed below, are against the College Sexual Misconduct Policy and some are against the law.
Non-consensual sharing of intimate images and videos: A person’s sexual images and videos being shared without their consent or taken without their consent.
- For instance: sexual images/videos taken consensually but shared without consent (‘revenge porn’)
Exploitation, coercion and threats: A person receiving sexual threats, being coerced to participate in sexual behaviour online, or blackmailed with sexual content.
- For instance: harassing or pressuring someone online to share sexual images of themselves or engage in sexual behaviour online (or offline) e.g. sending nudes.
Sexualised bullying: A person being targeted by, and systematically excluded from, a group or community with the use of sexual content that humiliates, upsets or discriminates against them.
- For instance: gossip, rumours or lies about sexual behaviour posted online either naming someone directly or indirectly alluding to someone.
- ‘Outing’ someone where the individual’s sexuality or gender identity is publicly announced online without their consent.
Unwanted sexualisation: A person receiving unwelcome sexual requests, comments and content. Sexualised comments (e.g. on photos).
- For instance: sending someone sexual content (images, emojis, messages) without them consenting.
- ‘Jokes’ of a sexual nature.
- Rating peers on attractiveness/sexual activity.
I know someone who has been affected by Sexual Misconduct
If you know someone who has been affected by sexual misconduct, it may be hard to know what to do or how to feel. That’s okay. There are lots of ways in which you can help support those affected.
The person’s reactions can vary; they may be afraid or act in ways that seem unusual to you, even laughing at times.
Disclosures (telling someone about an experience) can come in many forms; it could be something said jokingly, it could be posed as a question, it could be said casually as part of a story. No one expects you to be a professional counsellor or therapist; however how someone responds to a first disclosure can be very important.
Whether their experience was recent or a long time ago, there is support available.
It is vital that you listen, believe and support them. Never pressure someone into making choices.
- On Campus, during office hours, call the Safeguarding Team: For Bedford sites 01234 291888, for Tresham sites: 01536 413004
- If you are Deaf, deafened, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment, please send a text message, starting the message with the word safe to 07860 097683, this is available during office hours.
- Off Campus, Emergency Services: 999
- Find a safe space. If an incident has just happened, try and find somewhere they feel safe.
- Sexual Misconduct is an act of power and control: The most important thing is to respond in a way that maximises their choice and control over what happens next. You can simply ask them what they need or want. They might not make the same decision you would; however only they can decide what is best for them. You can help them explore options, but avoid telling them what they should do.
- Listening is the most valuable thing you can do at first.
- Find a private place to talk, and tell them you are glad they are telling you.
- Be patient and let them tell you as little or as much as they want at their own pace, without interrupting. Talking about how they feel can be as helpful or more helpful than talking about the details. Take their lead on this.
- Show them that you are actively listening through your body language (e.g. nodding, facing in their direction, sitting down at eye level) and words (e.g. “I hear what you’re saying”).
- Respect their personal space, and do not touch them. Even if you think they want a comforting touch, resist your urge to do so.
- Always follow their lead. You can offer them something to keep them warm, like a blanket or your jacket (shock can involve feeling cold, shivering and shaking).
- Do not take detailed notes of what the person is telling you, or else these may be used in an investigation if the person ever chooses to report the incident. Listening and believing is key at this moment in time.
- Remember your role in this situation. It does not matter if you are someone’s best friend, a stranger, a personal tutor, a line manager or colleague; you are neither the police nor an investigating officer. You do not need to interrogate or question someone for details.
- Ensure you are non-judgemental, reassuring and supportive if you ever respond throughout listening. Use phrases such as:
- “I believe you. / It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”
- “It’s not your fault. / You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
- “You are not alone. / I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.”
- “I’m sorry this happened. / This shouldn’t have happened to you.”
- If the person you are supporting is a College student or a member of staff, then you should signpost them to Report and Support.
- Report and Support is the College’s single online reporting platform for direct, confidential help, and no report triggers a formal complaint.
- A full list of the support and reporting options for those affected by sexual misconduct can be found here.
- You can support someone in reporting the incident to the College, the online form allows you to select if you are helping someone to input a report at this time. It will then guide you through the process step by step.
- If they do not want to discuss their options at this time, that is okay. Let them go at their own pace.
- Signpost them to Report and Support– if they ever choose to look through either their reporting or support options in their own time, they can all be found here.
- Never pressure someone into reporting. Regardless of whether you believe it is the right thing to do. This is about them and their choices, not yours.
- Regardless of what they choose to do, offer your ongoing support.
- Check in periodically: The experience may have happened a long time ago, but that does not mean that the pain goes away. Check in with them, letting them know that you care about their well-being and that you believe them.
- Know your resources. You’re a strong supporter, but that doesn’t mean you’re equipped to manage someone else’s health. Become familiar with the Report and Support pages, as you can recommend to those affected.
- In most cases of sexual misconduct, the perpetrator is known to the other party.
- They may not want to report the experience to the police or College. There are a lot of reasons why someone may choose not to report. That is okay.
- They might be concerned that people won’t believe them, or may not identify what occurred as a sexual misconduct.
- They may have fear or confusion about the reporting or support options, making them too intimidating to process at this time. Signposting for later reference, is still support.
- They might be concerned about who else will be informed- that is where the FAQs section is helpful.
- Receiving disclosures and supporting others can be incredibly difficult.
- All the support available to those directly affected by sexual misconduct is also available to supporters. Particularly through the College Student Services Teams.
- Do not feel like you are not worthy of support, because the experience did not directly happen to you. You will not be able to support others, without first supporting yourself.