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Pictured (from left) Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, Universitities Chief Executive Belinda Robinson and Nina Funnell, End Rape on Campus ambassador.University students are experiencing “unacceptable”rate of sexual assault on campus, a survey of 31,000 n students has found, afterstudents reported being assaulted on the way to university, inside residential collegesand by the staff supervising them.
The report, released by the Human Rights Commission on Tuesday, found 2100 students [6.9 per cent]were sexually assaulted during the past two years, while more than half of alluniversity students were sexually harassed in 2016, with 21 per cent of those in a university setting.
“The unavoidable conclusion of the data we have gathered across all 39 n universities is that incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment are occurring at unacceptable rates at n universities,” said Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
The report found women were four times more likely to have been sexually assaulted than men in a university residence, while post-graduate studentswere more likelyto have to have been harassed or assaulted by a staff member.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has urged universities to ensure they have adequate support services in place. Photo: Paul Jeffers
Despite decades of reports ofsexual assault on campus,many victimsremain unaware of where to report their assault.
Only 6 per centof students surveyed thought their university was doing enough to provide clear direction on sexual harassment procedures and support services.
Of students who were sexually assaulted in a university setting, 87 per cent did not make a formal report.
Universitities Chief Executive Belinda Robinson Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
On Tuesday, MsJenkins released nine recommendations for reform, including establishing a sector-wide independent investigation into residential colleges.
“We found that college settings are a particular area of concern, particularly for women who were four times as likely as men to have been sexually assaulted in this setting,” she said.
In February,universities were accused of “actively covering up sexual assaults”after it was revealed there had been justsix expulsions in the past five years despite more than 500 official complaints, includingcollege students referring to an oval as a “rape oval”, calling cask wine “slut juice” and residential quarters “slut alley”.
Universities has also taken aim at colleges in its 10-point action plan, released on Tuesday, while developing new principles for postgraduate staff and student interaction in response to the new figures.
Chief executiveBelindaRobinson said the peak body would also be extending first responder training to frontline university staff.
“We know that the way a disclosure of sexual assault is handled in the very first instance can make all the difference to the recovery of the victim or survivor,” she said.
“This work will help ensure that all students will receive a compassionate and supportive response if they choose to disclose their experience to a university staff member.”
Nina Funnell, End Rape on Campus ambassador Photo: James Brickwood
But sexual assault advocates have condemnedthe peak body for failing to mention either perpetrators or disciplinary measures in its response.
“Universities’s complete silence on offenders and disciplinary reform makes victim-survivors question just how committed they really are to taking firmer steps towards making campuses safe for students,” said End Rape on Campus ambassador Nina Funnell.
“Implementing trauma-informed reporting channels is all well and good but if universities have no intention of ever disciplining offenders there is little incentive to report.”
University administrators have been awaiting the survey’sfindings since the survey was launched in November. All 39 institutions are set to releasetheir individual results on Tuesday morningfollowing reports from Fairfax Media.
Universities and the Human Rights Commission had previously been accused of “unconscionable research” and “betraying” the students who participated in the survey because they would not release data on individual universities.
The figures are set to have an impact on ‘s third largest export, the $20 billoninternational student market.
Donaldson Law director Adair Donaldson said unless universities fundamentally changed their culture of dealing with sexual assault, a wave of victims could come forward seeking damages due to breaches of duty of care.
“Universities must be prepared to acknowledge and support survivors of sexual assault and abuse, or the result to these academic institutions could be serious financial distress due to legal claims,” Mr Donaldson said.
“My experience working with survivors of institutional abuse is that nobody wants to embark on aggressive and protracted legal action, there is an opportunity for the universities to work together with survivors, rather than against them.”
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.
Universities has also established a new university dedicated counsellinghotline on1800 572 224.
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