No rape here - we are a university

Observations on sexual assault

My first year at a top British university was, as one would expect, hard work, drunken and good fun. Then, one night, just after my exams, I awoke to find a male student in my room at halls. He had undressed himself and was touching me while masturbating himself. I screamed and ordered him out. I eventually mustered up the courage to run down the stairs to a friend's room, where I stayed for the rest of the night.

I was a virgin and now I had been violated by Matthew. Slowly, the reality set in. I had been in a deep sleep, following a few drinks the previous night. Could he have penetrated me? Raped me? How could I know for sure? I had to drag myself to the college doctor, talk to a cold and embarrassed GP, then grit my teeth while the nurse took three or four swabs to test for rape. It took a week for the tests to come back. He hadn't raped me, thank God.

I still felt violated, empty and vulnerable. Friends and family pressed me to complain to the university. I was acutely aware that he did the same course as I did, and had the same friends. How could I continue my degree with him in the same lectures, library and cafes?

Initially, the hall's wardens wanted to ignore the incident. "Didn't you lead him on?" they asked. "Are you sure you weren't drunk and you've forgotten that you invited him back to your room?" "No, no, no," I replied.

My advisers told me that contacting the police was a bad idea (even though Matthew had confessed), as it would only get messy for me. As for a formal inquiry at the university - apparently this would also be far too traumatic for me.

An informal inquiry took place. The university administrators concluded, with my tacit consent, that Matthew and I could happily coexist. A flimsy code of conduct was drawn up whereby Matthew, although able to attend the same lectures and library as me, could not actually say "hello" or attend the student bar.

The second year of university started badly. On campus, every corner I turned, I expected to see Matthew. His presence in lectures was a torture. I lost confidence in myself and my academic ability. I became lethargic, withdrawn and depressed. I returned home, formally withdrawing from my course 18 months later.

I am not alone. A Home Office study found that 1 per cent of students had been victims of sexual assault. All I wanted was a chance to complete my degree without Matthew's constant presence. But the university put its own interests first. It made a cold, commercial decision; better to lose one unhappy customer than to sully its reputation and potentially lose many more students.

Names have been changed

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