Pro­tect these girls, for our tragic daugh­ter’s sake

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By FIONA DROUET

IT has been nearly three years since our daugh­ter Emily took her own life while study­ing at Aberdeen Uni­ver­sity, af­ter suf­fer­ing a sus­tained cam­paign of twisted, vi­o­lent abuse by her ‘boyfriend’ An­gus Mil­li­gan.

We paid the ul­ti­mate price as a fam­ily for uni­ver­si­ties fail­ing to pro­tect young peo­ple from sex­ual or gen­der-based vi­o­lence. So I am dev­as­tated to learn an­other young woman, at a dif­fer­ent uni­ver­sity, has fallen prey to an­other preda­tory, en­ti­tled man.

As par­ents, we trust that the uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity and in­deed the halls of res­i­dence are safe. We were heart­bro­ken when Emily had to move away for uni­ver­sity but pre­sumed, like most par­ents, there would be ef­fec­tive safe­guards in place if ever some­thing went wrong. But Emily was re­peat­edly sub­jected to abu­sive be­hav­iour by Mil­li­gan, who in the most vi­o­lent at­tack left her fear­ing for her life.

He ‘in­tro­duced’ Emily to vi­o­lent sex­ual prac­tices, con­vinc­ing her this was the ‘norm’, and sent her vile and de­grad­ing texts and ex­er­cised con­trol­ling be­hav­iour.

Af­ter a se­ri­ous phys­i­cal at­tack, she sought help from uni­ver­sity staff but there was no in­ter­ven­tion and she was sent back to her room alone.

As a re­sult our dar­ling girl, who had never had a men­tal health is­sue, felt scared and alone, be­liev­ing the only way out of the tor­ture was to take her own life. In court Mil­li­gan ad­mit­ted car­ry­ing out as­saults and us­ing threat­en­ing be­hav­iour. The sher­iff said he showed no vis­i­ble, gen­uine re­morse, yet sen­tenced him to only 180 hours of com­mu­nity work. We will never know the full de­tails of Mil­li­gan’s last visit, min­utes be­fore the death of our daugh­ter, who was study­ing law and be­lieved in jus­tice.

A search for that jus­tice now drives our fam­ily as we cam­paign for a change of at­ti­tude to­wards gen­der-based vi­o­lence on cam­puses across the UK.

We started the #emi­lytest cam­paign, ask­ing uni­ver­si­ties to in­tro­duce bet­ter train­ing for staff to help them spot when a stu­dent has been the vic­tim of abuse. But de­spite our de­ter­mi­na­tion to en­sure no other young per­son suf­fers like Emily, this lat­est case shows there is still much to do.

Felix Beck was al­lowed to con­tinue his stud­ies, even though he was un­der crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion for a rape al­le­ga­tion. Then, with com­plete dis­re­gard for the law or re­spect for women, he com­mit­ted a sex­ual as­sault on cam­pus.

When any stu­dent or staff mem­ber is ac­cused of a crim­i­nal of­fence, it is vi­tal that a risk as­sess­ment is com­pleted and we strongly ad­vo­cate pro­tec­tive sus­pen­sion, re­mov­ing both par­ties with­out detri­ment to their stud­ies un­til there is an out­come. This case un­der­lines the im­por­tance of this step.

I am now in con­ver­sa­tion with the Uni­ver­si­ties Scot­land um­brella group with the aim of rolling out pro­tec­tive sus­pen­sion na­tion­ally by March 17, the third an­niver­sary of Emily’s death.

We will not stop un­til all uni­ver­si­ties de­liver the stan­dard of care es­sen­tial for young peo­ple to study safely and free from abuse.

ABUSE VIC­TIM: Emily Drouet

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