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Harrowing Stories Contained In University Sex Assault Report

It makes for tough reading.

01/08/2017 1:39 PM AEST | Updated 01/08/2017 1:40 PM AEST
HuffPost Australia
Sophie Johnson from the National Union of Students addresses journalists at the report's launch on Tuesday.

There are harrowing figures and accounts of sexual assault and harassment in the Change the Course Report released by the Human rights commission on Tuesday.

The report received 1849 submissions as well as interviewing 30,000 students from 39 university campuses. It recounts a number of stories from abuse survivors, as well as canvassing a number of shocking realities for student life.

The report found:

  • Overall, 6.9 percent of students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016, with 1.6 percent reporting that the sexual assault occurred in a university setting.
  • Women (10 percent) were more than three times as likely as men (2.9 percent) to have been sexually assaulted in 2015 or 2016.
  • Women were also more likely than men to have been sexually assaulted in a university setting in 2015 or 2016 (2.3 percent compared with 0.7 percent for men).
  • Students who identified as bisexual (3.8 percent) were also more likely than those who identified as heterosexual (1.5 percent) or gay/lesbian/homosexual (1.4 percent) to have been sexually assaulted in a university setting in 2015 or 2016.
  • Though sample sizes were small, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and students with disability were more likely to have been sexually assaulted in 2015 or 2016 than non-Indigenous students and students without disability.

Spread throughout the 249 page document are firsthand accounts of assault and harassment at universities.

Martha was in the library, when a group of men came up behind her and started making sexual comments about her appearance. One of the students said 'she's really working it for us isn't she boys?'. When one of them asked her to join them in a group study room, she felt uneasy and ran away.Martha's Story
Bianca had attended a party at the university bar and decided to go home. Two of her male friends offered to walk her home. Bianca accepted but on the way they said they had to stop off at their college for something. Once inside of the students' room, they locked the door and took turns raping Bianca.Bianca's Story

National Union of Students President Sophie Johnson has said universities should not congratulate themselves over the findings.

"There is nothing to celebrate," she said. There is nothing to revel in in having a few less sexual assaults or rapes than the university next door."

The report has prompted responses from many of Australia's universities, who say they are doubling down on efforts to combat sexual assault and harassment on their campuses.

EROC
End Rape On Campus launched a powerful photo campaign ahead of the report's release on Tuesday.

"Just one instance of violent and intrusive behaviour is one too many and we affirm our commitment to prevention, to compassionately supporting victims and survivors, and to ensuring our campuses continue to be safe places for all," said Deakin University vice Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander.

Other universities have pledged to implement the report's recommendations in full.

The report also contains accounts of poor reporting regimes, as well as harassment and assault faced by international students.

When Elsie reported to the university, she was told to make an appointment with the counsellor. It took a month for Elsie to get an appointment. When she scheduled a second appointment, it was cancelled as the single counsellor employed at the university could not work that day. Elsie has attempted to reschedule this appointment but has so far not been able to.Elsie's Story
Sukhon is an international PhD student and is new to Australia. In her first few meetings with her supervisor, he kissed on her the lips. Sukhon is unsure of whether this is a part of Australian culture or inappropriate of her supervisor.Sukhon's story
Lea, an international student, spent a night staying at her friend's residential unit. She was offered a mattress on the floor by the RA who said she would be safe. However, during the night the RA groped Lea and tried to pressure her into having sex.Lea's Story

It also revealed power disparity between perpetrator and survivor...

Valerie was raped by a senior student leader during her first year of university at an O-Week camp. Valerie later heard that the perpetrator had raped other female students at previous camps and that no action had been taken by the event organisers.Valerie's Story
Mira is an undergraduate student. One night, she attended a university party with her friends. After having a few drinks she decided to leave the party and accepted an offer from a male friend to walk her home. Mira remembers waking up with her friend sexually assaulting her. She urged him to stop and tried to push him off but he continued to sexually assault her.Mira's Story
Wendy has faced ongoing harassment from a classmate throughout her undergraduate studies. He is aware that she has a partner, but continuously asks her on dates and tries to touch her inappropriately when they are in classWendy's Story

... disparities that have been exploited by staff as well as student perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment.

Katie was packing up her things after a tutorial when her tutor approached her and asked her to come back to his house and have sex with him. Katie was scared as the tutor also marked all her assignments and she didn't want to upset him and fail her course.Katie's Story

EROC
End Rape On Campus launched a powerful photo campaign ahead of the Change the Course Report on Tuesday.

Amanda rode the bus to university with a university professor. The professor would sit next to Amanda or gesture at her to sit next to him. During the bus rides, the professor stared at her and complimented her appearance. This behaviour made Amanda feel uncomfortable. They usually walked together from the bus to campus, but one day Amanda told the professor that she was going shopping. As she walked away he put his arm around her and kissed her on the cheek. From that day, Amanda arranged for her sister to call and stay on the phone throughout her 20 minute bus ride to avoid interaction with the professor.Amanda's Story
Imogen is a postgraduate student. She was repeatedly harassed by a co-worker who also studied at her university. He would repeatedly ask her on dates and call her. When Imogen told him she was not interested he began following her around campus whenever she was alone.Imogen's Story

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