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Rape victim urges students to stay safe during Freshers' Week

The woman, known as Miss M to protect her identity, was attacked at the University of St Andrews.

As thousands of young people celebrate the start of student life with the fun of Freshers' Week, a rape victim is urging them to stay safe.

The woman, known as Miss M to protect her identity, was attacked while she was a second year student at the University of St Andrews in 2013.

She hopes her traumatic experience can help prevent further attacks.

She said: "Look out for your friends, I think whether they've been drinking or not, whether you know them or not even.

"If someone looks vulnerable or looks distressed, then the simple thing to do is ask 'are you okay?'"

The attack which happened during Freshers' Week led to a five-year fight for justice for Miss M.

The criminal case against her attacker Stephen Coxen was found not proven and he walked free.

She later raised an action in the civil court which she won, bringing her some form of justice after the disappointment of the criminal proceedings.

Now as students across the country start a new chapter at university, the graduate hopes her story can help others stay safe.

She said: "When I came to St Andrews I thought this is such a safe place.

"By the time I was in my second year I thought I knew everyone, but it doesn't stop people visiting St Andrews like Stephen Coxen did on that evening and he wasn't a student here so I think we need to be vigilant wherever we are - whether it's a city or a small town because bad things happen everywhere."

The graduate, who was supported by the university as well as her family and friends, added: "Every time Freshers' Week came around it reminded me of the awful things that someone can do, all the things that Stephen Coxen did to me, but now I've got justice.

"I've gone through the courts and come out the other end with a positive experience from the civil process at least.

"But for me it's now about helping other people. I'm not going to be defined by being raped any more.

"I'll always want to help other survivors but it's not going to define my future."

https://stv.tv/news/east-central/1437450-man-sued-80-000-for-raping-woman-declares-himself-bankrupt/ | default

Miss M, who was supported by the Scottish Women's Rights Centre and Rape Crisis Scotland, is now putting the attack behind her but is determined other students learn from her traumatic experience.

She stated: "One of my friends - it was only after things had resolved and I had justice - that she revealed she had been living with years of guilt for that evening that she left me.

"There's no way that I want people to think they're to blame for leaving their friends, because Stephen Coxen - he was the man to blame for when I was raped.

"It's always the perpetrators that are to blame, but my simple message is that we should stay safe."

Following the frustration and disappointment of a not proven verdict in the criminal court, Miss M is campaigning to scrap the controversial third verdict, which she says is confusing for both victims and juries.

She has met with justice secretary Humza Yousaf, who is reviewing the issue. His findings are expected to be published next month.

In 2016/17, only 39% of rape and attempted rape cases resulted in convictions, the lowest rate for any type of crime.

Nearly 30% of acquittals were not proven, compared with 17% for all crimes and offences.

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