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Universities fail in assault care

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sexual_healthDisappointing grades in services provided for sexual assault cases at top universities.

An online medical organisation, DrEd, has ranked 24 universities in the UK according to the sexual health services they provide for their students.

These 24 – known as the  ‘Russell Group‘ universities – were marked using a report card system where they each received a grade ranging from A to F according to their rating in 11 categories.

These categories included: the hours in which the sexual health offices operated; whether they accommodated ‘drop in’ appointments; the location of the services in the university; the quality of sexual health information on site; the availability of condoms and other contraceptives; the quality of on-campus information; special events and testing for students; sexual assault resources; student satisfaction; overall website usability and quality; and gave extra credit marks for exceptionally good ‘other resources’.

Data for each of these categories was sourced from online questionnaires sent to the relevant university representatives of sexual health.

Researchers also ‘mystery shopped’ at each university to investigate how helpful their offices were.

Nottingham University was ranked at the top of the table, with its sexual health services receiving a ‘first’ alongside King’s College and Bristol University.

Cardiff University failed in most of the categories and was consequently at the bottom of the league table.

In response, a spokesperson for Cardiff insisted it took the sexual health of its students “very seriously”, and that they had “reviewed the report in question and consider its findings inaccurate.

“The organisation that carried out this study has been contacted and we hope the full scope of our comprehensive sexual health services will be considered in a revised report,” they said.

Co-founder of the online doctor’s site, Amit Khutti, admitted he was inspired by a similar operation carried out in the US by condom manufacturer, Trojan.

Clinical consultant for DrEd’s, Dr Jasper Mordhurst said, “Universities are in a prime position to communicate, educate and encourage testing, and should focus on making sexual health services easy to access, multi-cultural and educational.”

“Young people tend to change partners much more than other age groups, so transmission rates of STI’s are much higher,” he added.

“Across the board, information on websites regarding STI’s and how to obtain treatment was weak and difficult to find, and there was limited advertising around campus of sexual health issues,” he continued.

It was also found that if students lived off campus or far away from the university postcode, they were re-directed to the local GUM clinic instead of the student centre.

All the universities bar Queen Mary’s drew disappointing grades in their response and services provided for sexual assault cases.

Marks were awarded according to the quality of sexual assault information that could be found on the website, and the availability of a sexual assault hotline and counselling services.

Alarmingly, Exeter, Glasgow, Newcastle, Durham, Cardiff, Birmingham, Southampton, and Queen’s University Belfast all received Fs for their sexual assault services.

The has been considerable concern about sexual assault cases at universities in the UK.

In a recent survey, 1 in 7 people admitted that they had experienced a ‘serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student.’

It was also found that only 4 per cent of assaulted women had reported such an assault to their university.

Of course, with the emergence of a monitor of sexual health services at universities, it is hoped that such alarming figures will improve.

Pete Mercer, vice president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said, “Although it probably won’t be a driving factor when choosing university, this [ranking] is just the sort of information that should be at students’ fingertips.”

The availability and consistency of sexual health services in universities was already a concern, especially with the recent changes in healthcare, Mercer added.

“If nothing else, hopefully the Dr Ed report card will increase awareness of student sexual health issues and encourage universities to both take them more seriously and to learn from the best examples already in existence,” Mercer said.

There are hopes that this report will lead to a more extensive league table system that incorporates all of the UK’s universities.

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