Student 'felt silenced by De Montfort University' after alleged groping

By David Pittam
BBC News, East Midlands

Published
image sourceGoogle
image captionThe university says it has taken "appropriate action"

A former student has said she "felt silenced" by her university after she alleged she was groped by a professor at a Christmas party.

The graduate reported her allegations in 2018 to Leicester's De Montfort University (DMU), where the man continues to teach.

She said the alleged assault and DMU's response led to an attempt to take her own life.

A university spokesman said DMU had taken "appropriate action".

The student, who graduated in 2020 and who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "He's still teaching, he's allowed around young people.

"They take plagiarism more seriously than sexual assault."

The university spokesman could not say what action was taken with regards the professor or what the result of its investigation was because of "data protection laws".

'Grabbed her'

The student told the BBC how in 2018 she had been at a bar with the professor and others.

At one point, she said, he grabbed her, "threw himself" at her and tried to kiss her.

She said she immediately went home and reported it to the university the next day.

The woman said she expected him to be sacked but he was not and when she asked for his office to be moved, as it was in the same building where she had lessons, DMU refused.

"They tried to manipulate me, to make it seem less big than it was," she said.

"They made me feel silenced. Their response was just a complete failure."

By December 2019, she said the impact on her mental health of the assault and the university's "poor" response led her to try to take her own life.

A university spokesman said: "Our primary concern here is to understand and to listen to our former student's testimony in greater detail... and where necessary, learn from a genuine dialogue.

"We take any complaint of harassment extremely seriously and always thoroughly investigate.

"Where appropriate, we do take disciplinary action, based on the evidence presented."

Dr Emma Chapman, from the 1752 Group, which campaigns on the issue of staff sexual misconduct within universities, said there was an issue with institutions not acknowledging the scale of the problem.

"We need to start talking about whether there's a case for a regulatory body to start really coming down on universities that aren't keeping their students safe," she said.

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