TheAustralian Human Rights Commission released a report that brings light the disturbing realities of sexual assault on college campuses
According to The Washington Post, the survey included more than 30,000 Australian university students from all 39 of Australia's public universities in 2015-16. Of the respondents, about a quarter of students were sexually harassed on campus last year. A little under 2 percent of respondents reported being sexually assaulted on campus. Only six percent of harassment victims reported the experience to their university, while about 13 percent of those assaulted reported the attack. Students may not report assaults because they fear experiencing backlash from the perpetrator, don’t feel that they would be supported or worry that their experience was not significant enough to warrant an investigation.
The report concluded that women are more likely to be victims of sexual harassment and assault than men. According to BuzzFeed News, racial and sexual minorities, including transgender, Aboriginal, and disabled students, experience sexual violence at a higher rate than other populations.
"What we have seen today is unacceptable for any college on this campus and we need to hold ourselves - every part of this university - up to external scrutiny so we are better," Australian National University’s vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt told TheCanberra Times.
South Australia Senator Simon Birmingham released a statement on his Facebook page yesterday, promising that “our government will work with universities to ensure they address the findings and recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report and implement changes that will make them safer and more inclusive environments in the future.”
Suggested reforms include specialized training for staff and faculty members, regular campus surveys on sexual harassment and assaults, and funding of internal studies to examine factors that may lead to unhealthy environments and behaviors, the Post reports.
According to 9 News Australia, a day before the survey results were released, the organization Universities Australia launched a 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual assault and harassment.
The report sheds light on something we already know—that sexual harassment is a huge problem on college campuses, and incidents of assault are rarely reported. This fact alone isn't exactly breaking news, but the findings from the survey reveal that it's not just an issue on campuses in the U.S.—it's a global epidemic, and in order to change campus culture, we need to speak up about it.
Colleges and universities should be safe places for all students to learn, work and live without fear of harassment or assault. The reaction to this startling report and pledges to make positive changes to campus culture are a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.