Universities taking a stand

Changing rape culture CC BY 2.0

Changing rape culture CC BY 2.0

Image by Richard Potts Flickr

Image by Richard Potts Flickr

Changing rape culture CC BY 2.0

Rebecca Low, ECU

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Universities across Australia have started to make changes around their campuses to protect students against sexual harassment and assault.

These changes are being made as part of the national Respect. Now. Always. campaign which was launched in 2016 to increase awareness, and address sexual assault and harassment in universities.

The campaign was part of a joint initiative between the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Australia’s 39 universities.

They supplied a report titled Change the Course which aimed to assist the universities in understanding the nature of sexual assault and harassment at Australian universities so that they could recommend changes to be made within the campus.

“This report comes after years of advocacy by survivors of sexual assault, student representatives and other organisations to raise public awareness of the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities,” Sex Discrimination Commissioner from the AHRC, Kate Jenkins said when the report was released.

Universities welcomed the introduction of the report even though it painted a disturbing picture in its findings of the reality behind sexual assault and harassment in our universities.

“Australia is the first country where an independent human rights agency has been engaged to gather comprehensive national data and share this transparently.” Mrs Jenkins continued, “This is a strong indication that Vice-Chancellors in this country intend to act on the findings of this report. “

The AHRC surveyed more than 30,000 students nationally for the report which found that 51% of students were sexually harassed on at least one occasion during 2016, with one in five of these students being sexually harassed in a university setting (excluding the travel to and from the university).

Each university involved with the peak university body Universities Australia was supplied with the report upon its completion as well as a set of 10 recommendations for change, to be implemented within the university.

ECU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steve Chapman said, ”ECU has already implemented several initiatives aimed at preventing sexual assault and harassment and better supporting our students.”

Since the release of the report in August of 2017, Edith Cowan University and Murdoch are among some of the universities across Australia to have released security apps for students to have on their phones, which allows students to notify campus security, as well as emergency services, of their location if they feel they are in a vulnerable position.

“We are providing practical and proactive support and we are determined to ensure our students and staff have the tools they need to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault,” said Murdoch University Vice-Chancellor Professor Eeva Leinonen.

Other universities are partnering with specialist agencies to train students and staff so that they feel they are adequately prepared if a situation may arise so they know how they should deal with the situation. This is especially important for staff who may have been identified by the universities as most likely to receive a sexual assault disclosure.

The universities are still implementing these changes now with things like implementation plans being presented to students so that everyone understands what the changes will be and what facilities will become more readily available to students such as face to face counselling.

If you are university student needing support after reading this article please follow the link for where to receive support in your university. Or anyone can call 1800RESPECT to talk to a councillor for support.

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About the Writer
Rebecca Low, Reporter

Rebecca is a positive student studying her Bachelor of Media and Communications, majoring in Broadcasting. She aims to work in the news world after finishing university at the end of the year. Rebecca is passionate about the arts after dancing for 17 years.

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Universities taking a stand