Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment

Rape / Sexual assault
It is an offence of rape for a person to have sexual intercourse with another person without the reasonable belief that they consented. It is an offence of sexual assault for a person intentionally to touch another person sexually without reasonable belief that they consented. Touching covers all physical contact, whether with a part of the body or anything else, or through clothing. While defining consent in sexually intimate relationships can be difficult, examples of rape or sexual assault include, but are not limited to:

  • Sexual contact with someone whom you reasonably should have known was impaired due to the use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Sexual contact with someone who is “passed out” or sleeping
  • Sexual contact with someone who is unable to say “no” and/or change his/her mind due to the presence of coercion or intimidation
  • Sexual contact with someone who is under the legal age to consent

Rape and sexual assault are criminal offences, and should be reported to the Police.

Sexual Harassment
Harassment may be defined as actions or behaviour which have the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Sexual harassment occurs where a person subjects another to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, for example, inappropriate sexual contact or lewd comments. 

Sexual harassment may constitute a criminal offence. Anyone who believes that they have been/are being subjected to sexual harassment may wish to seek legal advice from a solicitor.

Sexual Harassment by a member of the University community
The University has in place policies to deal with harassment and discrimination. In the event that a member of staff or a student feels that they have been/are being subjected to sexual harassment by a member of the University community, they may bring a formal complaint against the alleged harasser. Staff may wish to seek advice from the Human Resources Department. Students should refer to the Anti-bullying and Harassment Policy or contact the Directorate of Academic and Student Affairs for advice.   

However, it is quite often the case that individuals simply wish the harassment to stop without making a formal complaint. Students may raise such issues with any member of University staff, who may refer them to the relevant Head of School, Students’ Union, or seek advice and assistance from Academic and Student Affairs.

Complaints about issues raised by students against members of staff shall be investigated initially under the Student Complaints Procedure. Where it is considered appropriate, the Staff Disciplinary Procedure may be invoked.   

In complex cases where more than one procedure applies, the Director of Academic and Student Affairs and, if appropriate, Director of Human Resources (or their nominees) will decide the nature and sequencing of any procedures.

Useful contacts

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)
Report to the PSNI.

Call 0845 600 8000 and you will be put in contact with a specially trained police officer who will speak to you confidentially. The Police will contact The Rowan (listed below) about providing support to you.

If you need to escape a dangerous situation or have sustained injuries that require immediate medical attention, dial 999.

The PSNI have a website that sets out relevant processes, and why you should report to the police, and how to do this. Please click here to be directed through to it.  

The Rowan
Alternatively, you may contact 'The Rowan' free phone helpline 0800 389 4424 which operates 24/7. This is a service to support people who have been affected by sexual violence and abuse, and has specially trained doctors and registered nurses available.

The Rowan provides services such as: emotional support, forensic medical examination, clinical assessment, sexual health screening and treatment, signposting on to counselling and other support services, and follow-up support.

The Rowan can report the matter to the police on your behalf, but will not report it if you do not want them to. If you would like to know more about this service, please click here or speak to Student Welfare staff. An appointment is required to attend The Rowan.

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety produce a helpful handbook, “Have you been affected by sexual violence or abuse”. You can find it online by clicking here

The Northern Irish Department of Justice has a handbook for adult victims of rape and sexual assault, it can be found online by clicking here

Nexus NI
Specialist counselling for male and female survivors of sexual abuse/violence ages 16+.

Tel: 028 9032 6803
Web: www.nexusni.org

Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid
Accommodation to women and children experiencing domestic and/sexual violence. Links to counselling, outreach, drop-in service, advocacy, group/individual sessions, support with solicitors, ssa, social services, case conferences, court support, specialist training programmes, follow-up, training, prevention and protection.

Tel: 028 9066 6049
Web: www.belfastwomensaid.org.uk