skip to content

The University aims to provide you with a safe environment to live and study and does not tolerate harassment or sexual misconduct from any member of its community.  This webpage provides information about support and reporting options available to students who have experienced harassment or sexual misconduct.  When considering what action to take, please remember that when the University receives disclosures relating to harassment or sexual misconduct it looks to support you and ensure that you have the choice of deciding what action, if any, to take. 

You may find it useful to consider the following steps:

1. Are you at immediate risk of harm?

In an emergency you can contact the Police or an ambulance by telephoning 999.  Guidance for students around immediate action to take following a sexual assault or rape is available here: www.cambridgestudents.cam.ac.uk/files/sexual_assault_disclosure_students.pdf

2. Accessing support

  • If you feel able, discussing what has happened with someone you trust - a friend, family member, someone at the University or a specialist advisor, might help you.  You can be negatively affected by keeping your experience to yourself.
  • At the University, you can speak to your College Tutor, College Nurse, Senior Tutor, College Counsellor or the Students' Union Advice Service.  You can also access counselling at www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/studentcouns. The University has a Personal Data Handling Policy on how it will use your information.  If you want to discuss anything confidential with staff, ensure you have understood the limits of confidentiality and how the information you are providing might be used later on.
  • Outside the University, external specialist organisations include:
    • Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre - Information, advice and support for women survivors of rape and sexual abuse and for those supporting them - http://cambridgerapecrisis.org.uk
    • The Elms, Sexual Assault Referral Centre - A team of friendly professionals that work 24/7 to help people that have been affected by sexual abuse - www.theelmssarc.org
    • Survivor’s UK – Information, advice and support for male survivors of male rape and sexual abuse - www.survivorsuk.org/
    • Cambridge Women’s Aid - CWA offers information, advice and ongoing practical and emotional support to women experiencing domestic abuse in strictest confidence - http://cambridgewa.org.uk
    • Samaritans - Befriending helpline for those in crisis or despair - www.samaritans.org
    • First response - NHS help in a mental health crisis - Telephone 111 option 2

3. Taking action

You have control of what action you take (including no action) and you can change your mind.  You do not have to make a decision quickly and it is important that you make the decision that is right for you.  You might want to speak to someone you trust about what action to take - these are some of the options you may wish to consider:

If you have any feedback or questions regarding this webpages or the University's reporting procedures please contact oscca@admin.cam.ac.uk

Q. What is harassment and sexual misconduct?

The University has a Code of Conduct that defines harassment and sexual misconduct.  The Code itself provides full definitions of the behaviour expected by students.  Some examples of harassment and sexual misconduct include:

Examples of Harassment

  • making sexually offensive comments about dress or appearance, the display or distribution of sexually explicit material, or demands for sexual favours;
  • engaging in harassment on the grounds of a person’s sexuality (or assumptions about a person’s sexuality)including making derogatory homophobic, transphobic or biphobic remarks or jokes, offensive comments relating to a person's sexuality, refusal to acknowledge a person’s gender or identity, or threats to disclose a person's sexuality to others;
  • making offensive references to a person's race, ethnicity, skin colour, religion or nationality, gender, dress, culture, background or customs which have the effect of ridiculing or undermining an individual or fostering hatred and/or prejudice towards individuals or particular groups;
  • ignoring, disparaging or ridiculing a person because of mistaken assumptions about their capabilities, or making offensive reference to an individual's appearance, in the context of their disability;
  • controlling or coercive behaviour, such as pressure to subscribe to a particular political or religious belief.

Examples of Sexual Misconduct

  • sexual intercourse or engaging in a sexual act without consent;
  • attempting to engage in sexual intercourse or engaging in a sexual act without consent;
  • sharing private sexual materials (photos, emails, messages) of another person without consent;
  • kissing without consent;
  • touching inappropriately through clothes without consent;
  • inappropriately showing sexual organs to another person;
  • repeatedly following another person without good reason.

Criminal Offences

  • Behaviour that breaches the University’s Code of Conduct may or may not also be considered a criminal offence.  You can find more information about some related criminal offences here: http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/rape_and_sexual_offences/consent/.  The University’s definitions are wider than the law and a higher standard of behaviour is expected from students and staff than from members of the public.  If you believe that someone has committed a criminal offence then you can report them to the police on 101 or in an emergency on 999. 

Q. Dealing with the behaviour yourself

If you would like to speak to someone about their behaviour you are advised to seek support on a confidential basis from your Tutor or another staff member.  You could also discuss the possibility of using the University’s mediation service.  Because of the possibility of counter-accusation or recrimination, you should alert a supporting person to the problem before you approach the person concerned, even if you feel able to take this action on your own.

If you do approach the person yourself:

  • try to describe the behaviour very precisely, where and when it happened;
  • make it clear how you feel about what has happened and describe the effect it is having on you;
  • say what you want to happen going forward.

Even if you are able to resolve the situation yourself, tell your College and, if appropriate, your Faculty or Department, and the College of the person whose behaviour you have complained about, so that they are aware of the circumstances. You could ask your Tutor or Senior Tutor to do this for you.

If an attempt at alternative resolution has not had or would not have the desired effect, if you feel that this approach would be inappropriate, or the harassment has been too severe for this to be appropriate you can report the behaviour to the College or University.

Q. Report another student to a College

Each College has a procedure for complaints, this may be published on the College website.  You can seek advice from your Tutor or Senior Tutor, or from the Tutorial Office about how to make a complaint.

If your complaint relates to harassment you will normally be expected to use a College’s procedure. If your complaint relates to sexual misconduct or harassment involving students from multiple Colleges it might be more appropriate to report the behaviour to the University.  The University and College will not both investigate the same matter under the harassment and sexual misconduct procedures.  For advice about which procedure to use, speak to your Tutor or contact the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals at OSCCA@admin.cam.ac.uk.

Q. Report another student to the University

As a student, you can report another student to the University.  If your report relates to either sexual misconduct; or harassment involving students from multiple Colleges, it may be appropriate to report the behaviour to the University.  For advice about whether to report a matter to the University you can speak to your Tutor or contact the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals at OSCCA@admin.cam.ac.uk.

If you want action taken that limits your possible interaction with the other student, you can use the University procedure for handling cases of Harassment and Sexual Misconduct: 

  • The Procedure will not make any findings or decisions about whether the harassment or sexual misconduct has taken place;
  • No record of your report will be held on your or the other student's file;
  • Following investigation, outcomes can include a conduct agreement, which can stop a student contacting you or being able to access certain buildings; intermission; or a behaviour awareness assessment for the other student.

If you want action taken that may lead to the University making a finding of wrongdoing or imposing penalties on a student then the University can use its discipline procedures, for more information about the Discipline Procedure (see below).

You can report a student using the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Reporting Form.  The form will be considered using the process outlined in the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Procedure. If the harassment or sexual misconduct took place over 3 months ago, you will need to confirm the reason for reporting the complaint now, for example, that it was being investigated by the Police, or that you had not decided whether or not to report.

Once you have submitted the form, the University will take the following steps:

  1. if the University believes that there is a significant risk to you or others in the University then precautionary action can be taken to prevent the student from contacting you or putting other people at risk while an investigation is ongoing; 
  2. you will be informed about the action that the University will take within two weeks of your form being submitted (and usually sooner).  Some complaints may not be referred for investigation using the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Procedure but an alternative process may be recommended instead; 
  3. if your case is referred for investigation, an investigator who has no knowledge of anyone involved will be appointed to try to establish the undisputed facts about what happened and any ongoing issues. The investigation will be conducted fairly and objectively, which is likely to require allowing the other student to see any evidence or information that you have provided;
  4. if you are willing to do so, the investigator will arrange to meet with you to discuss your form in more detail. You can bring a supporter with you to any meetings, such as your Tutor, a professional advisor from the Students’ Union Advice Service or a friend. Although it is not envisaged that it will be necessary for you to bring a legal advisor, you may do so if you wish;
  5. the investigator will invite the person against whom you have made your complaint to a meeting and may also speak to others who may have been involved;
  6. following the investigation, the investigator will then write a report and recommend a course of action;
  7. you will be informed of the suggested action, if both you and the other student agree to the action this will be confirmed by letter.  If one of you does not agree to the suggested action then with your agreement, the behaviour will be considered using the University discipline procedure.

Courses of action can include:

  • No further action → if you are unhappy with this decision you can request a review
  • Mediation → to enable discussion and agreement about future behaviour
  • Conduct Agreement → the other student agrees to specific restrictions
  • Intermission → the other student agrees to have a temporary break from study
  • Behaviour Awareness Assessment → a confidential assessment for the other student
  • Referral to University Discipline Procedure → you will need to agree to this action

Q. When will the University Discipline Procedure be used?

The University Disciplinary Procedure will be used for matriculated students. The disciplinary procedure for non-matriculated students taking courses at ICE, CISL and certain other University institutions will be the procedure that is provided by that institution.

Cases will be referred to the Disciplinary Procedure, with your agreement, if you or the respondent do not agree to the suggested actions under the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Procedure, or you want the University to consider making a finding of wrongdoing and impose penalties on the other student.  If a case is referred to the University Discipline Procedure:

  • The University advocate will decide whether there is enough evidence to consider ‘charging’ a student with a breach of the University regulations;
  • If there is not enough evidence to ‘charge, the Advocate can take no action or request further attempts are made at resolution;
  • If the student is ‘charged’ then there is likely to be a hearing and you may need to attend as a witness;
  • At the hearing a panel will decide whether the student has breached the University’s rules, this decision will be based on whether the panel think it is beyond reasonable doubt that the rules were broken;
  • If the rules have been broken then the panel are likely to impose sanctions, in the most serious cases this can include temporary or permanent exclusion from the University.

If the matter is referred to the Discipline Committee from the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Procedure; the investigator’s report, the decision made following the report and the reasons for the decision will be made available for consideration by the Discipline Committee.

As the person who reported the student, you will be kept informed of the proceedings and will be formally notified of the outcome of any disciplinary hearing and sanctions applied.

Q. Report a member of staff

The University and Colleges have procedures in place for considering complaints regarding harassment or sexual misconduct from a member of staff.  Unless a complaint is frivolous or vexatious, students will never be disadvantaged for raising a complaint.  If you raise a complaint about a staff member then the University and/or College will ensure that you will not be assessed or taught in a small group with that member of staff.

If you wish to raise a complaint about a staff member in a College contact your College Tutor, Senior Tutor or Graduate Tutor, or where the Senior Tutor is involved, the Master of the College. 

If you wish to raise a complaint about a University staff member please complete the Student Complaints Procedure Form and email it to oscca@admin.cam.ac.uk.

Once the University has received a complaint it will consider the best procedure under which to investigate your complaint.  Depending on the nature of complaint it may be necessary for staff discipline processes to be used, this might limit some of the information that can be shared with you as a result of the staff member’s right to confidentiality, but information will be shared with you about things that affect you.  Throughout any investigation, you will continue to be kept informed by the University.