Support after sexual assault, violence or harassment
Health and wellbeing
If you're a victim of sexual assault, it's important to know that you're not to blame and there are confidential services you can go to for support and advice.
We can provide you with active support measures to feel safer on campus, signpost you to confidential medical and counselling services and take disciplinary action if needed. We take every report of sexual assault, violence or harassment seriously.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is when you experience any kind of unwanted sexual act or activity. Any sexual activity without consent is deemed as sexual violence and is a criminal act.
Rape Crisis England and Wales describes sexual violence as 'any kind of unwanted sexual act or activity, including rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and many others'.
Sexual harassment is also a violation of your boundaries. Citizen's Advice describes sexual harassment as 'unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which:
- violates your dignity
- makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated
- creates a hostile or offensive environment
If you experience any kind of unwanted sexual act, activity or harassment, you can speak to confidential services at the University or in the local area, or report it to the police.
Find out where to get immediate help, urgent or ongoing support and how to report sexual assault, violence or harassment to the police and the University.
Get immediate help
For specialist and confidential medical attention and support after a sexual assault, call The Treetops Centre, Portsmouth’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) on their 24/7 helpline on +44 (0)300 123 6616. The Treetops Centre can arrange for you to speak to a specially trained police officer and, if you want, give you a forensic medical examination that could help collect vital evidence if you decide to involve the police. The decision to speak to the police or have a forensic medical exam is entirely yours to make – but you should still contact The Treetops Centre for advice and support from people trained in sexual assault and violence.
Find a safe space – if an incident has just happened, try to find somewhere you feel safe. If you're on campus, call +44 (0)239 284 3333 for campus security or go to your nearest University building and ask someone to call Security.
Out of hours support
Campus security is also able to contact the 24/7 on-call welfare service offered by our Residence Life Team and Chaplaincy Team, who between them can offer immediate practical and emotional support and will also help you access other forms of support.
If you experience sexual assault, violence or harassment, you should know you're not to blame and you're not alone. We can help you build your support network and give you the resources you need.
Report and Support tool
If you experience sexual violence or harassment at Portsmouth, we actively encourage you to tell us about it using the Report and Support tool to submit a report.
There are two types of report you can submit to get the support you need:
- An anonymous report – Staff at the University may not be able to act on the information you give and respond to you in person, and at the end of the report, you will be signposted to general advice and support that may help you.
- An informal report requesting contact from an advisor – Staff at the University will be able to act on your report and respond to you in person to give support, advice and guidance. This is not a formal complaint but staff will support you to decide what further support and action will meet your needs and what you want your next steps to be. They will help you make a formal report and continue to support you through the formal processes if that is what you choose – you will not be put under any pressure to choose a particular course of action.
Friends and family
If you've experienced sexual assault, talking to friends and family will give them the opportunity to rally round you and support you every step of the way.
If you're not ready to reach out to your friends or family, there are many people at the University you can talk to.
Your personal tutor
Your personal tutor is always available if you need guidance and support. This includes personal support, so reach out to them if you've experienced sexual assault or are experiencing sexual violence or harassment. They will help direct you to support services that can give you the support you need.
If you report your experience to your tutor then they should complete the Report & Support tool to make sure it is recorded by the University, and to help to take the first step towards a formal report, if that is what you wish to do.
Student wellbeing services
The Student Wellbeing Service offers free, confidential help. You can book a 1-to-1 appointment with a member of their team to talk about what you're going through. And you can get advice on how to deal with it and whether to report it.
Students' Union advice service
The Students' Union Advice Service is independent from the University. Advisers are experienced in supporting students to navigate University processes, and can attend meetings and advocate for you through the process of a complaint.
Residence support service
Our Residence Life Adviser Team offer welfare support and advice in halls, including operating a 24/7 on call service.
You can also find Residence Life Assistants (RLAs) in halls from 6.00pm to 10.00pm, Monday to Friday. RLAs are students who've been through their first-year in halls. They have the experience to help you with all types of issues.
Emotional and spiritual support
Our Multi-faith Chaplaincy offers confidential emotional or spiritual support to students of all faiths or none.
Your doctor has a duty of care to listen to you and give you the best advice they can. They can also help if your physical health is suffering.
You should also seek out medical support from your doctor or a sexual health service in case the perpetrator of the assault had an STI. Most STIs can be treated quickly easily.
Local and national support services
For specialist and confidential medical support and advice after a sexual assault, the best place to go is the Treetops Centre, Portsmouth’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). Phone the 24/7 helpline on +44 (0)300 123 6616. You can use the SARC at any time – immediately after an assault or even if the assault took place some time ago.
We also encourage you to use the following support networks:
- Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service (PARCS) – support to anyone who has been sexually violated. Women’s Service: +44 (0)23 9266 9511; Men’s Service: +44 (0)23 9366 9516
- Survivors UK – helpline services and online advice for male survivors of sexual assault and rape
- Galop – supports LGBT+ people affected by sexual abuse, assault or violence
- Rape Crisis England & Wales – a network of independent rape crisis centres
- The National Stalking Helpline – for information and advice, call 0808 802 0300 for free, 9.30am–4.00pm, Monday to Friday (1.00pm–4.00pm on Wednesdays)
- Revenge Porn Helpline for practical help with removing online content and advice about reporting revenge porn, call +44 (0)345 600 0459, 11.00am–4.00pm, Monday to Friday
- NHS – Help after rape and sexual assault
- Citizens Advice – advice on what to do if you're sexually assaulted
- Stop Domestic Abuse – national domestic abuse charity
Report the incident
The decision to report your assault is entirely up to you. If you do choose to report to the police or the University, there are processes in place to make sure your report is taken seriously.
When you report a rape or sexual assault to the police, they will:
- Record your report as a crime report – you'll be asked to give your details and any details of the incident, such as time and place and details of your attacker. Your report will also be given a crime number – it's good to write this down so you can mention it in any follow-up conversation with the police.
- Ask a Specially Trained Officer (STO) to contact you to start the investigation – STOs only work with victims of sexual assault and will understand how difficult this process may be for you.
See more advice from The Treetops Centre on what happens when you report a rape or sexual assault to the police and how they'll investigate and/or prosecute the perpetrator.
Reporting to the police
If you're calling in an emergency, call 999. If you're not in an emergency, you can call 101. You can also contact our University Police Liaison officer.
Our Police University Liaison Officer
The University's dedicated liaison officer supports students with any police-related enquiries or issues you have on campus.
Police Constable (PC) Clare Parry is an experienced police officer, who has worked extensively with victims of crime and in the community.
You can meet with Clare by dropping into her weekly ‘surgeries’ at the University Library every Thursday lunchtime from 12.00pm - 1.00pm.
Calling the police yourself can be daunting, which is why it's a good idea to contact The Treetops Centre who can help you report the assault and arrange for you to have a forensic medical examination if that's what you want.
Reporting to the University
Whichever University support service you speak to, you'll get advice about the next steps and support to complete an informal report via the Report & Support tool.
When you make an informal report requesting contact from an advisor through the Report and Support form, you'll be contacted by staff at the University who can give you confidential support, advice and guidance. This is not a formal complaint but staff will support you to decide what further support and action will meet your needs and what you want your next steps to be. They will help you make a formal report and continue to support you through the formal processes if that is what you choose – you will not be put under any pressure to choose a particular course of action.
If you have a complaint against a member of staff or are dissatisfied with the response you've received when reporting, you can email the University Complaints Team at email@example.com. The team is happy to have an informal conversation about the process to help you decide if you would like to make a complaint.
If you're not ready to report your assault but are happy to talk to a trained Staff member from the University, contact the Student Wellbeing Service at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them on +44 (0)23 9284 3466.
Outcomes of a report
We take every report seriously and our priority is to ensure that you are safe and actively supported. If you choose to make a formal report then we'll work with you to identify immediate active support measures to protect you and your studies.
These measures are guided by your wishes and will vary according to the situation, but could include:
- giving you new rooms in halls
- arranging for the other student to move elsewhere in halls
- re-arranging seminar groups to ensure you don't have to work with someone
- arranging for a mutual non-contact agreement
- precautionary suspension of the other student
- helping you arrange extenuating circumstances processes without having to go into detail about what you have experienced
There can also be a variety of outcomes following a formal disciplinary process, which will vary according to the specific circumstances and can also be informed by your wishes. These could include:
- making interim measures permanent
- requiring the perpetrator to write a letter of apology and/or undertake education on relevant topics (such as consent)
- excluding the perpetrator from the campus or from the University as a whole.
What to do as a witness
Our Student Charter highlights the importance of respecting others, being a role model for others and playing your part in the University community.
That means if you know that a friend of yours or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or harassment – you should encourage them to make a report so we can take steps to support them. It's their choice if they wish to do this, but you can still make an anonymous third party report so that the University is aware of the types of issues that are taking place. This can help to inform ongoing awareness and education campaigns.
Remember, when a sexual assault occurs it is never the fault of the victim, and you can support them by reminding them this and letting them know they can talk to you without judgement. The RAINN charity has some great advice on how to talk to and support a survivor of sexual assault.