‘I pleaded with him to stop’ – stu­dent tells of rape tor­ment

Western Mail - - NEWS - Ab­bie Wightwick Ed­u­ca­tion ed­i­tor ab­bie.wightwick@me­di­awales.co.uk

ASTUDENT has re­lived the hor­ror of be­ing raped by her part­ner as Cardiff Univer­sity launches an anony­mous sys­tem for stu­dents and staff to re­port abuse and sex­ual vi­o­lence.

The stu­dent was raped by her part­ner a few weeks af­ter start­ing at Cardiff Univer­sity sev­eral years ago.

She claimed she did not get the sup­port she needed from stu­dent ser­vices at the time so turned to drugs to blot out the trauma and dropped grades.

Wel­com­ing the univer­sity’s new anony­mous dis­clo­sure sys­tem – which is the only one of its kind in the UK and in­cludes a ded­i­cated team of staff – she be­lieves it would have pre­vented the spi­ral of de­spair she fell into.

The stu­dent, who does not want to be iden­ti­fied, re­called how she had gone away to spend the week­end with her then part­ner who then raped her.

“Af­ter the in­ci­dent I did not know what to do, I ques­tioned what had hap­pened. He was my part­ner and I ini­tially ques­tioned if what took place was rape. All I knew was it felt wrong and that I had lec­tures again on Mon­day.

“It was not con­sen­sual and I ex­plic­itly pleaded for him to stop – it was rape. That Mon­day I phys­i­cally could not walk into my univer­sity build­ing due to a panic at­tack and stag­gered in the park op­po­site. Some girls asked if they could help but I re­fused. In­stead, once I could some­what breathe, I called my mum, who in­structed me to go to the stu­dent sup­port cen­tre im­me­di­ately.

“I vaguely knew where the cen­tre was due to be­ing told in an in­tro­duc­tory lec­ture. I re­ally did not want to ask for help, it would mean di­vulging what had hap­pened – I felt dis­gust­ing.

“The phe­nom­e­non of vic­tim­blam­ing had been in­ter­nalised in me and I wrongly blamed my­self for what was some­one else’s ac­tions. De­spite this I went in and asked for help look­ing cat­a­strophic. They re­fused to see me as I had not had a GP yet but of­fered that if I waited four hours un­til drop-in some­one could see me then.

“One mem­ber of staff protested and ar­gued that ‘she clearly needs help’ – how­ever this was not enough to break pro­to­col. Af­ter be­ing de­nied sup­port I had the im­pres­sion the univer­sity was not con­cerned with what hap­pened to me.

“The months that fol­lowed were dark. I had turned to drugs to es­cape the flash­backs of my re­sult­ing post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der. I felt like I had a darker twin who went against my col­lected and smi­ley façade. Even­tu­ally I be­came a recluse to avoid my then ex-part­ner. Even though I wanted sup­port I was too anx­ious to leave my ac­com­mo­da­tion or reach out in any way. My at­ten­dance and per­for­mance plum­meted from a first to just try­ing to pass.”

Since Oc­to­ber last year des­ig­nated staff on the Dis­clo­sure Re­sponse Team process re­ports made to it of vi­o­lence and abuse on and off cam­pus, in­clud­ing any dis­clo­sure of sex­ual vi­o­lence and his­toric cases.

Since then 24 re­ports of sex­ual vi­o­lence have been dis­closed com­pared to fewer than five a year un­der pre­vi­ous sys­tems which were not ac­cu­rate and did not re­flect the true ex­tent, a univer­sity spokesman said.

This does not mean in­ci­dents have nec­es­sar­ily risen – more that there is now a bet­ter way for the univer­sity’s 30,000 stu­dents and 7,000 staff to re­port them, which en­cour­ages more to re­port, he added.

The stu­dent raped by her part­ner said it was a re­lief to dis­close the case.

“The sup­port that’s here now would have saved me from a lot of dam­age: sup­port with my safety at the time, mov­ing house and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the po­lice ser­vices re­gard­ing the rape and the stalk­ing. This sup­port sooner would have been life-chang­ing. I can go con­fi­dently into my fi­nal year with the sup­port re­quired should I need it.

“I am re­lieved, not only for my­self, but for all the oth­ers who will now not have to face crimes of sex­ual vi­o­lence alone.”

Be­fore the Dis­clo­sure Re­sponse Team was launched stu­dents could re­port in­ci­dents of sex­ual vi­o­lence in var­i­ous ways across the univer­sity, in­clud­ing to aca­demic staff, through the univer­sity coun­selling and well­be­ing ser­vices, and through the Stu­dents’ Union.

This meant dis­clo­sures were not recorded in a sys­tem­atic way so no ac­cu­rate data was avail­able, the univer­sity said.

Ben Lewis, di­rec­tor of stu­dent sup­port and well­be­ing, said: “Cardiff Univer­sity wants to de­liver an ex­cep­tional stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We recog­nised we could do things bet­ter in re­spond­ing to this im­por­tant is­sue. This project is about ad­dress­ing con­cerns and en­sur­ing our stu­dents get the sup­port they need when they need it. It’s ac­knowl­edg­ing the preva­lence of vi­o­lence and abuse in so­ci­ety and how this im­pacts on our stu­dents.”

Pic­ture posed by model

> ‘I had the im­pres­sion the univer­sity was not con­cerned with what hap­pened to me’

> Cardiff Univer­sity now has an anony­mous dis­clo­sure sys­tem – the only one of its kind in the UK

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