The Importance of Anonymous Reporting

They say that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

When you’re a victim of sexual violence, the journey towards getting justice is long, hard, emotional, embarrassing, and unfortunately in so many cases, fruitless.

It’s easy to see why so many victims decide not to take that journey.

It’s no wonder they don’t when they know that their reputation, their morals, and the most intimate details of their private lives are all going to come under intense scrutiny if they do.

That’s why it’s so vital that we prove to them that if they take the first step on that journey they will be supported, empowered, and most importantly, believed.

The need for anonymous reporting is paramount to our beliefs at Culture Shift.

However, I also know that it is the one issue that perhaps makes organisations most nervous with the worry about what will happen if a report is made of a serious incident, that can’t be properly investigated because the victim hasn’t come forward.

Notwithstanding that, I also understand that there is so much institutions can do with the information that they gather from anonymous reports.

Firstly, the information can be used to monitor trends and patterns of behaviour. Where worrying trends do appear, they can be strategically targeted with training as well as effective communications to ensure that they are reversed swiftly and effectively. Trends found through anonymous reporting should inform all communications campaigns, which should bend, flex and adapt depending on the insights the system offers up.

Secondly, I know that you will simply receive more reports if you offer the chance to do it anonymously. A study, conducted earlier this year by Revolt Sexual Assault showed that only 6% of victims of sexual violence reported it to their institution. The other damning statistic found in that study is that only 2% of them felt that there was an adequate reporting system, and were satisfied with the response that they received once they reported. I honestly believe that both of those figures would be significantly changed for the better if more organisations had the facility to report anonymously.

But there’s one more thing that I know about anonymous reporting, and it’s perhaps the most important.

In the relatively short time that we’ve been involved with helping universities across the UK with their reporting procedures, they’ve told us that a significant number of victims who initially made an anonymous report, later found the strength to come forward again and make a named report.

By allowing them to take the first step on their journey in complete confidence, they were able to see the value in making a report, felt empowered to take the next step, and come forward.

Although this is anecdotal evidence from the universities currently using Report + Support I think it’s a major step forward in understanding the mindset of a victim, and putting the right measures in place that support that mindset.

Keeping victim mindset front of our own minds will ensure that more people feel comfortable to use a reporting system, and crucially, that they make the right decisions when they feel comfortable to.

We believe that it is vital to allow anonymous reporting to ensure you get a full picture of what’s happening and get a measure of the culture across your organisation. However, there are some myths around anonymous reporting that I’d like to take this opportunity to dispel.

Myth One: You will be bombarded by anonymous reports that you won’t be able to do anything about.

It takes time to build confidence in a new reporting system. Despite this being a worry across most Universities, not one has been overwhelmed by reports – either anonymous or named. Reporting tends to start slowly and builds up over time to a manageable amount as confidence builds in the system.

Myth Two: You’ll receive information – including the name – of an alleged perpetrator, but not have the details of the victim.

There are things you can do within the system to mitigate this risk if you want to, such as not offering a free text box within the anonymous reporting route. Instead, you can offer multiple choice options to allow people to disclose what has happened to them.

However, we would encourage you to allow people to explain what they’ve experienced, and manage people’s expectations throughout the reporting process so that they don’t give you information such as the name of an alleged perpetrator if they’re reporting anonymously.

Myth Three: Allowing anonymous reporting will pave the way for lots of vexatious reports.

In today’s climate, there are lots of opportunities for people to share allegations across social media. Having a reporting system doesn’t significantly impact the potential for this to happen, and in fact can actually help. If you start receiving reports that once investigated seem vexatious, this is information you need to know so that you can look to help the person who is potentially being targeted and bullied in this way.

At Culture Shift we firmly believe that the benefits of anonymous reporting far outweigh the risks.

Furthermore, any organisation that considers its reputation over the needs of victims, or tolerates a toxic culture, will be left with a reporting system that’s not being implemented properly, taken seriously, or trusted and used effectively.

What is damaging to your reputation as an institution is when harassment and abuse are covered up and eventually discovered.

When you put people first, your reputation will only grow in a positive way.