The mother of a student found dead after her boyfriend bullied and beat her is to launch a major drive to help Scotland’s universities protect other potential victims.
Fiona Drouet will next week attend Scotland’s first conference to help uni staff better understand and prevent mental and physical abuse of students.
Her Aberdeen University student daughter Emily took her own life aged just 18 years old in 2016, days after being assaulted by her boyfriend Angus Milligan, who was branded “controlling and violent” in court.
Mrs Drouet said: “This event is the first of its kind in Scotland and almost every university is attending. When incidents of gender-based violence are reported to universities we expect staff to carry out really serious misconduct reviews but many do not have the skills to do that.
“Emily did report what happened to her, but the response she got was to be sent back to her room alone with her perpetrator remaining on campus. He came back one week later and assaulted her again, 10 minutes before we lost her.
“Since then we have worked tirelessly to ensure disclosures of abuse are dealt with safely and responsibly. And, although the sector is making significant advancements, there is still work to do.
“It is vital all staff recognise the impact of trauma and sustained abuse on young people. And, while universities can’t conduct criminal investigations, they do have a duty to act upon disclosures and safeguard all involved. We want to help ensure they are able to deliver a safe and fair hearing for all parties.
“By bringing extensive expertise in this field into one room and disseminating that across our universities, we hope staff will feel empowered and that this in turn will help reduce the vulnerability of both students and staff.”
She added: “Emily was the type of girl who would have wanted to help anybody she could. She would see this as helping people and I know she would absolutely support it. Emily lost her life but hopefully, through this, she will save other lives. If we didn’t do anything and none of this work was happening what would Emily’s life have meant then?”
Staff from 15 universities will attend the event in Glasgow when Mrs Drouet will urge her daughter’s death to lead to better protection for students.
Wednesday’s event comes after The Sunday Post earlier this year reported an 82% increase in reported incidents of rape or sexual assault at UK universities.
The landmark conference will be opened by the Scottish Government’s director of advanced learning and science, Aileen McKechnie.
Detective superintendent Gordon McCreadie – Police Scotland’s lead in domestic abuse, stalking and harassment – will give insights into dealing with victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse to illustrate best practice in handling student misconduct probes.
And rape survivor and campaigner Miss M – a former St Andrews University student who successfully sued her attacker after a not-proven verdict in a criminal case – will also share her experiences.
Miss M, who fought for five years for justice after she was raped on a night out in Fife in 2013 by Stephen Coxen and who is campaigning to end the not-proven verdict, said: “I will be speaking about when I presented myself in crisis and how the university responded to that and helped me.
“The support they gave enabled me to graduate, something I thought would never happen after I had been assaulted.
“I was going through a two-year police investigation that then ended up in the criminal trial, and then fighting on in a civil case, all while I was a student. But they supported me every step of the way. Where I am today, and what I am able to do, is all down to the student services at St Andrews.
“When I speak to survivors at some universities, it is appalling to hear the ways they have been treated by student services and other institutions.”
The event will also include input from Rape Crisis Scotland, ASSIST an organisation supporting male and female victims of domestic abuse, and Dr Michael Murray, a consultant in neuroanaesthesia and director of Medics Against Violence.
Mrs Drouet has set up the charity #EmilyTest, which is developing a gender based violence charter to serve as a benchmark of good practice to help parents make “informed decisions” on where their school leavers should study.
She is also planning to host a similar event for all of Scotland’s further education colleges, and added: “The gender based violence charter will be a marker of good practice.
“It will enable parents to have a more informed choice of university, based on factors other than academic.”