Submitting a report of an incident to the University can be an extremely difficult step to take. You might not know what to do, where to go, what information is relevant or whether disclosing will mean you will lose control of the situation.

In this article, we will address the main barriers to disclosure to clarify this process for you. These range from doubts about the reporting process to societal myths; we want to provide you with the necessary information and tools to support you in the next steps. Have your voice heard. 

I don’t know what to do. 

After an incident, it is perfectly normal to not know what to do. Advice on how you can proceed next is an essential part of the support a reporting student will receive from an Adviser if they submit a named report on Report + Support. The advisor will discuss with you both your reporting options and your options in terms of support. We will not share information beyond the relevant staff (that is, the Specialist Wellbeing Manager who will triage the report, the advisor you will meet with, and campus security if you have informed them) without your consent unless you or others are at significant risk. In submitting a named report, you will not be submitting a formal complaint right away – neither to the university nor to the police. Still, this is something you will be able to discuss with the Adviser. They will also be there to support you should you decide to submit a report to the police or a formal complaint to the university. 

If you want to learn more about what you can do for yourself or a friend following an incident, or the external support available to you, we have articles with advice for each type of incident that you are able to read. 

In short, it’s okay to not know what to do. We are here to support you through this. 

I’m concerned it might impact my future career/studies or that I’ll be called a troublemaker. 

Fear of retaliation is the fear that there will be negative consequences for disclosing an incident. This could include fear that the report may have an impact upon career prospects, studies, and social life, either because one can be ostracised from a group or team, become the subject of gossip or worryingly, being approached and intimidated by the reported party.

Since submitting a disclosure will not start a formal investigation, the information you give us will not be shared beyond the relevant staff (that is, the Specialist Wellbeing Manager who will triage the report, the advisor you will meet with, and campus security if you have informed them) without your consent unless you or others are at significant risk. Your confidentiality will be respected.

We understand that your fear of retaliation might increase if you decide to take formal steps to report to the police or the university. Officers from the university’s Student Conduct and Complaints Office are always happy to have an informal chat with the disclosing student before any formal complaints are submitted. Once a formal complaint is submitted, the university can provide you with ongoing support throughout the process. We also have measures in place to manage risk during any formal investigations it might conduct, see, Student Discipline Procedure. Precautionary measures to limit the spread of information, such as instructing students involved with the discipline case to have no contact with one another can also be applied.

If you experience retaliation, you can get support from an advisor. As a community of staff and students, we are continuously giving training and running awareness campaigns, like our Consent. Get it. Full stop. campaign, so that the members of our community are capable of recognising inappropriate and unacceptable behaviours. We want to change the culture, not only to prevent incidents but also to promote an environment where disclosing students will not fear retaliation. 

I feel embarrassed/ashamed/guilty. 

Feelings of shame, guilty and embarrassment are sadly too common when it comes to experiencing these types of incidents. You may feel like it is your fault and blame yourself. When it comes to incidents like sexual misconduct and assault, and hate incidents and discrimination, these feelings reinforced by societal myths that often shift the blame and make one feel like they should have been able to prevent an incident or not take it as seriously. 

In our community, we also have academics and other members of staff who actively campaign and create awareness campaigns to tackle these myths. Our wider culture needs a change, and we believe it can start at Kent. 
Our advisors can also help you understand and overcome these feelings by referring you to Student Support and Wellbeing’s counselling or mental health services. Rape Crisis offers some tips on challenging self-blame which you might find useful and tackles some rape myths

Remember that you are never to blame in these circumstances. The blame lies solely with the perpetrator. 

I’m worried I won’t be believed. 

We know that people rarely lie about experiencing unacceptable behaviours, but unfortunately, societal myths about certain types of incidents (such as sexual misconduct and assault) has sometimes led to the disclosing party not feeling believed. At the University, staff dealing with disclosures, whether that be our advisors or officers from our Student Conduct and Complaints Office have received training on how to deal with disclosures and ensure that students do not feel disbelieved throughout the process of support or investigation. Comprehensive guidance is also provided to all members of staff dealing with disclosures.  

With our university-wide consent campaign Consent. Get it. Full stop. we have been working on establishing a culture where the victim-survivor is not made to feel like what happened is their fault, and where the members of our community understand what amounts to unacceptable behaviours. 

I don’t want anyone to know what happened. 

We will respect your confidentiality. Report and Support provides you with direct, confidential help and support, without immediately triggering a formal complaint or instigating and investigative process. We will not share information beyond the relevant staff (that is, the Specialist Wellbeing Manager who will triage the report, the advisor you will meet with, and campus security if you have informed them) without your consent unless you or others are at significant risk. We do not report incidents to the police without the consent of the reporting person unless you or others are at significant risk. 

If you are still unsure about what to do and who to tell, that is okay. You can checky our self-help resource list and our articles on the incident which you have experienced to learn about support external to the university and other resources you can use in your own time, space and privacy. 

I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. 

Disclosing an incident through Report and Support will not automatically instigate a formal complaint or investigatory process. This means that you can still access confidential support without the person that you are reporting receiving any information about it or sanctions – if that is what you wish. 

In fact, when submitting a report, you will never be asked to give the name of the reported student, even when you choose the option of submitting a named report. This is something that you can decide whether or not to share. 

When you fill out a named report (‘give us details we can follow up on’), you will be given the opportunity and space to tell us what happened in a question titled ‘let us know what happened’, this is optional and it is also up to you what you tell us, including any information that might identify the person that you are reporting. You will also be asked some information (multiple choice) about the person who committed the unacceptable behaviour and their connection to the university, answering this is entirely optional. 

After you submit a named report, an advisor will get in touch to set up a chat where you can discuss your support and reporting options; whether you choose to report the incident will be left up to you. We will respect and support your decision. 

It is ok to seek support, but not wish to report someone.

It should also be noted that, in the case where social distancing rules have been broken with regards to the incident reported, the university has decided not to pursue disciplinary action against students who disclose or report unacceptable behaviour to the university.  

I’ve told someone in the past, but they didn’t take me seriously and/or nothing happened. 

Distrust in the way the university, law enforcement (if involved) and society more broadly will respond is understandable. You might fear you will be silenced, ignored or even that you will lose control of the situation.

At the University of Kent, we are continuously working on our policies, procedures and on the guidance documents and training we give to our staff concerning disclosures so that disclosing students receive the appropriate support and information to make their own decisions. 

We have also been taking steps to change the culture. Our Consent. Get it. Full stop. campaign encourages students to be active by-standers and to help each other out where unacceptable behaviour is taking place, and we also provide students and staff with active bystander training. At the start of each academic year, we will be publishing an annual report where we will communicate the action and outcomes taken from disclosures and reports; this will be done in a non-identifiable manner, but we hope it will serve to encourage more people to speak up and emphasise that at Kent unacceptable behaviours are not tolerated. 

Even if you report anonymously, you will be helping our campuses stay safe as the information provided will be reviewed monthly to identify any areas of concern that need to be addressed. If any areas of repeated concern are identified, we will intervene. 

There are two ways you can tell us what happened