Protect these girls, for our tragic daughter’s sake
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