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One in 10 Female Students in Australia Have Been Sexually Assaulted

One in 10 Female Students in Australia Have Been Sexually Assaulted main image

One in 10 female university students in Australia have been sexually assaulted in the last two years.

This staggering figure is the result of a new survey into campus sexual assault, conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and will increase calls for universities in the country to do more to protect students. Only 9% of those who had been sexually assaulted had reported it to their university, with some saying their university fails to provide anonymous reporting or would force them into face-to-face “mediations” with their attackers. 96% of all students believe their university doesn’t do enough to support victims.

One survivor told the report: “Our cohort for our course is incredibly small. I felt too scared to report these incidents. I couldn’t have action taken against him because everyone would find out.”

Another said: “The university broke confidentiality by informing organizers of the camp (i.e. the rapist’s friends) what I’d done. People spread lies about me and I was ostracized from the club.”

Although the report found women were twice as likely as men to be sexually harassed, 2.9% of male students said they had been sexually assaulted in the last year. The most likely students to be assaulted were those with a disability or from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.

The report calls on universities to introduce specialist support services and create a national independent review process for sexual assault at residential colleges. These institutions were found to be areas of particularly high-risk, due to them typically having a strong drinking culture, established hazing rituals and sexist attitudes towards women.

The atmosphere at one such institution was described by a student as one where “women were described as objects or trophies”. They said: “Conquests of guys getting girls from other colleges were broadcasted weekly in this gossip session the whole college had, where you would submit your experiences to an executive, and on weeknights we would gather and hear about everyone’s conquests that week.”

Universities have responded to the report by promising to implement the recommended steps. They received their own copies of the survey results a week before the media, allowing them time to formulate a response. The Australian National University, for instance, posted a pre-recorded video statement to YouTube. Reactions from other universities can be found on The Guardian.

The women’s officer for the National Union of Students, Abby Stapleton, said: “Often universities choose to support the perpetrators rather than the victim, university management would rather sweep sexual assault under the carpet than take steps to prevent it. These numbers are incredibly damning and indicate the extent of the institutional failings of Australian universities.”

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Written by Craig OCallaghan
As editor of TopUniversities.com, Craig oversees the site's editorial content and network of student contributors. He also plays a key editorial role in the publication of several guides and reports, including the QS Top Grad School Guide.

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