Life Education Sexual abuse, harassment plague Aust unis
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Sexual abuse, harassment plague Aust unis

University incidents ranged from catcalling and comments to unwanted touching, stalking and rape. Photo: AAP
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One in six Australian university students say they have been sexually harassed while one in 20 report being sexually assaulted, according to the results of a national survey.

The 2021 National Student Safety Survey asked 43,819 students from 38 Australian universities the about their experiences.

Female students (10.5 per cent), transgender students (14.7 per cent) and non-binary students (22.4 per cent) were more likely to experience harassment or abuse in a university context in the past 12 months when compared with male students (3.9 per cent).

The majority of perpetrators were men, likely to be a fellow student and more often than not, someone the victim knew.

Incidents ranged from catcalling, sexualised comments or commentary and escalated to unwanted touching, stalking and rape.

COVID-19 led to increased online harassment

Student accommodation or residences were often locations for incidents, but they also happened off-campus and the shift to remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased online harassment.

One in 30 students who were sexually harassed and one in 20 who were sexually assaulted made formal complaints.

Half of the respondents, who were surveyed during September and October 2021, knew nothing or very little about the formal reporting process for harassment or assault.

The report released on Wednesday recommends adequately resourcing response and prevention strategies at universities, improving reporting pathways and acknowledging the roles of gender, discrimination and marginalisation in driving sexual assault and harassment.

The survey was funded by Universities Australia and the peak body’s chair John Dewar apologised to victims.

“I am deeply sorry to every single university student who has experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault, who has a friend, family member or loved one who has,” he said in a video statement on Wednesday.

“I’m sorry for what you endured. I’m sorry for how that may have affected your relationships, your mental health, your studies and your life.”

The first national survey was done in 2016 and improvements have been made since, Prof Dewar said, but more work is needed “and we will do it”.

-AAP

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