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Student Welfare and Support Service report shows increase in reported sexual assaults

The Student Welfare and Support Service (SWSS) published its annual reports for 2022-2023 on 19 February, 2024. The report includes assessments of Counselling, Disability Advisory, Sexual Harassment and Violence Support, and Peer Support services. The SWSS provides welfare services to Oxford students and works with the colleges’ welfare teams as well as student volunteers. Their services include counselling as well as the  provision of support, advice, and training.

The 2022-2023 Counselling Service report details that 3228 students, or 12.4% of the Oxford student body, received SWSS counselling (a decrease of 1.4% from the previous year). A third of the students seeking counselling met a professional within five working days and eight out of ten students secured a meeting within 15 working days. The largest issue students dealt with was anxiety (31.1% of reports), followed by depression (17.5%) and identity (10.8%) respectively. Among the students that received counselling, 45 students reported struggling with self-harm.

According to the Sexual Harassment and Violence report, the service received referrals from 170 students and provided support to 130 (a slight decrease from the previous year). All inquiring students got an appointment within two working days, and met a specialist caseworker within 9.5 working days, on average. Serious sexual crimes (a term encompassing rape, sexual violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and stalking) accounted for over 70% of the Service’s casework: 15% of the reports involved raped, 17% sexual violence, and 40% sexual assault.

Furthermore, nearly half of the reported perpetrators involved in the cases are unconnected to the University, and 17% of them happened before the student enrolled at Oxford. However, 38% were related to the University, and some cases even involved staff members (4%). In most cases – nearly 60% – victims chose not to report their experience to the police (a decrease of 10% compared to the prior year). However, 23% of service users considered making a formal complaint, and 6% involved the police. Finally, 85% of users were females, 54% were undergraduate students, and 65% were white – all of which are disproportionately high numbers compared to the general student population.

The University told Cherwell: “While Oxford’s figures are in line with the wider sector, we are not complacent. Oxford takes sexual violence or harassment extremely seriously and expects all members of the University to behave appropriately at all times.

“Our annual campaign, ‘Oxford Against Sexual Violence’, reflects the University’s strong condemnation of sexual violence or harassment of any kind, and signposts students to the dedicated services and support available to them, including the University’s Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service which provides free, confidential support and advice.”

Finally, according to the Disability Advisory Service report, approximately a third of the student body have a registered disability (7350 people). In the past year, there has been an increase of 1.2% in students who registered a disability, and the two most common types of disabilities students struggle with are mental health conditions and learning difficulties. More than half of the students with registered disabilities are female undergraduates.

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