Please click on a question to find the answers.
> What were the Hidden Marks survey findings on women students’ reporting of stalking, violence and sexual assault?
> Should I report the incident(s) to my institution?
> What are the advantages and disadvantages of reporting an incident to the police?
> What happens when you report an offence to the police?
> How do I contact the police?
> What kind of treatment can I expect from the police?
> Can I report an incident anonymously?
What percentage of women students reported stalking, sexual assault and violence to the institution or the police?
The Hidden Marks survey revealed that students are unlikely to report stalking, violence and sexual assault to the institution or to the police. Students were much more likely to talk to their friends or family about what had happened.
Reporting rates to the institution or to the police ranged from 1% (reporting less serious physical violence to the institution) to 21% (reporting of stalking to the police). The lowest reporting rates overall were for less serious sexual assault (molesting, touching or unwanted kissing), and the highest rates were in the category of stalking and serious physical violence.
What were women students’ experiences of reporting like?
Reporting to the Police
Respondents who had received good treatment from the police were keen to explain the elements that constituted a good response. Based on the responses to our survey, a good response can be characterised as the police officer:
- believing the respondent;
- taking the incident seriously;
- being sympathetic and reassuring to the victim;
- acting professionally;
- acting quickly.
‘They were very nice, supportive and professional and came to the house to take a statement from me. I felt they believed everything I was saying.’
‘I was relieved that they were taking my concerns seriously. In the past, they were not sympathetic when I was a victim of domestic violence, so I was surprised that they now take harassment and stalking seriously.’
‘I once called the police when the person in question came to my flat and tried to break in while I was inside. The police responded promptly and were reassuring, though he had gone by the time they arrived. I was pleased with the way they responded.”
‘(They) dealt with the situation exceptionally well. I felt comforted and protected. They resolved the issue immediately by removing the threatening person. Though highly traumatic, I felt like I was able to talk to them and felt no hesitation in calling them again if a similar situation arose.’
More generally, the police response was praised when the police force:
- provided a female officer when appropriate;
- took time to talk to the victim about their situation;
- communicated well with the victim over the course of dealing with the complaint.
‘Very well, they listened and checked up on me the next day.’
Negative reports about police behaviour were received for respondents when the officer was perceived to have:
- been dismissive of the victim’s complaint;
- not followed up on the complaint;
- suggested the victim was at fault;
- acted insensitively or asked inappropriate questions.
Reporting to the Institution
When respondents who had reported their experience to somebody in an official role at their college or university were asked to talk about how it had been received, it became clear that respondents reported positively when they were believed, taken seriously, reassured and communicated with until the issue has been resolved. In addition to that, students said that they had felt well-supported when:
- they had been helped and encouraged to report to the police;
- they were provided with advice and support;
- the incident was taken into account in terms of their course;
- the perpetrator (particularly if that person was a student at the institution) was dealt with effectively and promptly.
‘They were very supportive and encouraged me to go to the police.’ (Victim of stalking)
‘They responded with sound advice and offered to continue advising me of the problem persisted.’ (Victim of stalking)
‘They were very sympathetic. The event had affected my studies in a big way and my tutor really helped me get back on track.’ (Victim of sexual assault)
‘The Head of Student Support was completely brilliant. She was understanding and took it seriously, giving the brilliant advice and boosting my morale and self-confidence. She made me feel supported and represented.’ (Victim of physical assault)
‘(They dealt with it) absolutely brilliantly – hugely supportive of my academic and personal needs. Arranged weekly meetings and suggested counselling.’ (Victim of physical assault)
‘They dealt with it quickly and the person was banned for entering campus. They also put a member of staff on the gates when buses from my town were arriving and leaving.’ (Victim of stalking)
‘The teachers and Head of Sixth Form whom I reported this incident to were very supportive. I felt reassured that they were there from me and that they didn’t blame me as a person.’ (Victim of sexual assault)
‘They were very reassuring that the individual (s) did not have the right to behave in such a manner and advised me on support available and how to go about making a complaint.’
Should I report the incident(s) to my institution?
The decision to report your experience to your institution is yours only and no one should make you feel guilty whatever you decide.
If you report your experience to someone in an official role at your college or university (e.g. a student union officer), they will be able to help you access the support you need. They will be able to advise you about reporting to the police and give you information about local support services. They will do their best to deal with the perpetrator promptly and effectively. Furthermore, if they know about incidents of violence against women students, institution officials will be able to instigate changes in policies that may help to prevent future violence and improve support for future victims.
If your institution has a Student Advice Service, they will be able to direct you to the most relevant person to report your experience to. Alternatively contact the Welfare Officer, Women’s Officer or President of your Student Union. To find your student union, use the directory on the NUS website by clicking here.
Deciding whether or not to report your experience to the police is a difficult decision and one which only you can make. There are many points of view about whether or not to report – no one should make you feel guilty whatever you decide. If you do decide to report do it as soon as possible.
Some advantages of reporting to the police
- It is an opportunity for you to present your side regarding the incident.
- It is the only chance you have of getting your perpetrator punished.
- It is a way of stopping the perpetrator committing future crimes against you or others.
Some disadvantages of reporting to the police
- Reporting does not necessarily mean the perpetrator will be convicted neither does a conviction necessarily result in a prison sentence.
- You will set in motion a process over which you have little or no control and which is difficult, although not impossible, to stop.
This website has a section about reporting a crime which contains pros and cons of reporting and information about how to report.
Community Legal Advice – ‘Victims of Crime booklet’
This booklet explains what happens when you report a crime, the standards of service that victims of crime are entitled to and how to claim compensation. It also gives details of victim support.
Rights of Women report: ‘Reporting an Offence to the Police: A Guide to Criminal Investigations’ – Click here to read.
In an emergency always dial 999.
Information about contacting the police, including emergency and non-emergency contact numbers, how to report online and how to report anonymously.
Find contact details and other information for police forces, neighbourhood policing teams and police authorities.
To find out about your rights as a victim of crime, click here to read:
Also read the victim’s guide to the Criminal Justice System Code of Practice for Victims of Crime which includes information on how to complain: Click Here to read.
Remember that you can ask for a woman police officer to deal with your case. You do not need to speak to any other officer other than the one in charge of your case. In general, you can expect the police to believe you; take the incident seriously; be sympathetic and reassure you; act professionally and act quickly. If you have had a bad experience with the police, you may want to make a formal complaint. Click here to find out how to make a complaint:
Yes, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to report information about crime anonymously.
Offence specific information about reporting
Rape and Sexual Assault
The Rape Crisis website has a section entitled ‘Reporting Rape’ which has information about, for instance, police procedures and compensation.
Rights of Women report: ‘From Report To Court – A Handbook for Adult Survivors of Sexual Violence’
A report by Baroness Vivien Stren CBE of an independent review into how rape complaints are handled by public authorities in England and Wales.
Network for Surviving Stalking
The Victim’s Version of Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidelines on investigating stalking. Website sections on: