A landmark survey conducted by the Human Rights Commission has confirmed this morning that over half of the Australian university students surveyed were sexually harassed at least once last year. The Human Rights Commission surveyed 39,000 students from 39 universities across the nation for their report. Even more alarming is that one in four of the students surveyed reported experiencing sexual harassment in a university setting last year.
The results found that a vast majority of sexual assault and harassment instances were perpetrated by men, with women experiencing assault and harassment at alarmingly higher rate.
Major Insights from the Survey
The survey set out sexual harassment as any “unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.”
- The most common forms of sexual harassment were inappropriate staring (14 per cent), suggestive comments or jokes (11 per cent), and intrusive questions (9 per cent).
- Transgender and genderfluid students were 45 per cent more likely to be sexually harassed in a university setting in 2016, than men and women.
Sexual assault was defined as “when a person is forced, coerced or tricked into sexual acts against their will or without their consent, including when they have withdrawn their consent.”
- Bisexual and asexual students were most likely to be assaulted.
- Over half of those students who were sexually assaulted knew the perpetrator.
The report marks a step in the right direction, according to Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins. The Commission put forward nine recommendations, including engaging in an independent review to address the assault culture in residential colleges, implementing a commitment to action from university leaders and improving the methods for responding to assault and harassment cases. While the survey certainly raises awareness of the severity of the situation in Australian universities, it is now up to uni leaders to pave the way for change. Whether action entails implementing the recommendations or adopting alternative methods to curbing sexual assault and harassment in university settings is irrelevant. As the report points to, the current institutional practices operating in Australian universities are simply not good enough. It’s time for change.
Students across Australia have the right to feel safe, particularly in the parameters of their learning environments. This survey is our opportunity to learn from the past, and work together with those who have experienced sexual assault to combat the situation.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. In an emergency contact 000. If you are facing any issues regarding sexual assault or harassment, please contact Freedman & Gopalan Solicitors on 02 8917 8700 or fill out the enquiry box and we will get back to you ASAP.