Cardiff University student hassled for fees after rape

Teenage girl looking out of the window whilst sitting on her bed
Cardiff university students said they feel let down by the lack of support offered to survivors

A student who was raped said she received no support from her university, and was instead hassled to pay tuition fees after taking time out.

Lily, 23, not her real name, was in her final year at Cardiff University when she was raped in March 2021.

She described having to relive her traumatic experiences to the finance team as they chased her for £9,000.

Vice Chancellor Wendy Larner said she wanted to discuss the concerns with students affected by sexual violence.

Four students have expressed concern over a lack of information on support, saying they feel like they were "failed" by staff at the institution.

Lily said she felt "let down" and believes the university added "unnecessary stress" to her situation, adding: "If the university does offer support, it is not advertised well."

She called for stickers on bathroom stalls explaining help available, saying: "You need to be spoon fed. When you've just been sexually assaulted, your brain is like a puddle of mush".

Lily reported the man to the police and said he was interviewed, but not charged because of a lack of evidence.

After two of her lecturers helped her with coursework extensions, Lily took an interruption of study.

This meant resitting six exams the following year, and a fixed fee of £150 per exam was agreed.

Thoughtful pensive sad young female sitting indoors leaning forward propping chin
FOI data revealed Cardiff university was not able to provide up-to-date data for the number of reports of sexual violence

However, when she returned in 2022, she was told she owed £9,000 for the entire academic year.

She said: "I was getting letters saying 'we're going to kick you off your course if you don't pay'.

"It was probably the worst time of my life and instead of getting any kind of support from uni, I was just getting more and more harassment about paying fees."

After months of emails, Lily said she had to go into detail about her traumatic experience the finance team.

She never received an apology, or support - the finance team just stopped sending her emails.

No recent figures

Lily and other students affected said they had not heard of the Disclosure Response Team (DRT), which is responsible for student support and signposting.

The team received 691 reports of sexual misconduct between the 2017 and 2021 academic years, according to FOI responses.

However, the university also said it does not hold data on sexual violence reports before 2017, and could not provide any for allegations after 2021.

Academic year

Unwanted sexual contact

Sexual assault























The university said these disclosures were "not always perpetrated by a member of the university community".

"There is a proportion where the perpetrator is unidentified, that cannot be followed up," it said, adding: "There is also a proportion where the perpetrator is not known to the victim."

When asked the number of expulsions as a result of sexual violence each year between 2017 and 2023, it said there were "less than five" each year.

Lily called the number of reports "staggering", especially as "we know reporting is in the minority".

"You feel like you're the only person this has ever happened to you because no one talks about it," she said.

"But those numbers show you're not alone."

Hannah Norman
Hannah Norman set up a student-led support service for survivors of sexual violence as there was "hardly anything" from the university

Hannah Norman, 21, a third year student at the university, waived her right to anonymity.

She was raped in the summer before starting university and said "for the first and second years of uni, I felt like there was nowhere for me to go".

Hannah only found out about the DRT when she started a support group society called Stronger Together for survivors of sexual assault or abuse.

She said she thinks sexual violence is "rife" in universities.

The 21-year-old recalled living in Talybont student halls when a student carried another drunk student back to the accommodation where he then raped her.

Hannah "was in the same halls" at the time but only found out about the crime in the news.

"We have the right for the uni to report to us if something's happened in our facility," she said.

"It makes you feel unsafe and you're just like 'who am I living around?'"

'One disappointment after another'

Fourth year student Eleanor, 21, not her real name, was raped by another student in her second year in June 2022.

Eleanor did not want to report this because she had "heard from other people who've experienced similar things that they are not going to do anything about it".

She said "there was literally no point going to them" because she "didn't have any evidence".

"It would be my word against his," she said.

The 21-year-old searched for support but "struggled" to find anything.

"It's just been one disappointment after another," she said.

Emily Carr
Emily Carr said while she was women's officer at the student union reports of sexual harassment were dismissed

Emily Carr, 22, was the women's officer of Cardiff Students' Union and vice-president of the feminist society in 2022-23.

During her time she saw "a dismissal of rape culture that continues to fester throughout the university".

Last year there was an "epidemic" of "spiking" and "sexual harassment", she said.

"We had people disclose information to us, and there was a storm of it on social media," Emily added.

She said reports of this type of behaviour were "flat out denied" by "senior members of the student union" and not taken seriously.

However, Emily said the society committee members were "overwhelmed" with "traumatising" student experiences.

'Failed by the university'

Emily, who waived her right to anonymity, said as a survivor of sexual violence she was also "failed" by the university.

She told several staff members about her experience, but was "completely dismissed by a senior member of staff".

"When people speak out, we are not doing it for revenge," she said.

"We are not raising this issue because we are bitter - we do this because we want better for students and staff.

"The bottom line is, we as survivors should never have had to be put up in a position where we are having to speak about this."

Cardiff University main building
Lily Smith said she was "harassed" by Cardiff university finance team for fees she had already paid

Cardiff University said DRT staff are "trained in responding to disclosures of violence and abuse".

The university said advisors "are not therapists or councillors" but have a "relevant first degree in a health related or social science discipline" or experience "working with victims of domestic or sexual violence".

The university has a "zero-tolerance approach to violence against women".

The university said it was "concerned by these testimonies" and are "disappointed" that "for a variety of perfectly valid reasons these current and former students have chosen not to access or reach out to the specialist services we have available".

'Find ways to improve'

Vice Chancellor Professor Wendy Larner said she wanted to "meet these individuals to discuss their concerns" and find ways to "improve".

The university said it will also carry out a DRT promotion review.

It said it works with Women's Aid, South Wales Police, New Pathways as well as our local specialist medical and forensic services.

Cardiff University Students' Union said "student wellbeing is a central priority" and it "heavily invests in safety measures that go above industry best practices".

However it said it "wholeheartedly agreed" there "is more to be done to understand why students do not report serious incidents".