Victoria University today released the results of a survey into sexual assault and harassment experienced by its students.
The results come from a national study conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The national study is part of Respect. Now. Always - a Universities Australia initiative supported by Victoria University and other Australian universities to improve awareness and prevention of sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus.
Victoria University’s survey data is published on its Respect. Now. Always web page.
Key findings for VU
The key survey findings for Victoria University, included:
- 7.3% of VU respondents were sexually assaulted in 2015 or 2016, with most of those assaults occurring outside a university setting.
- 0.7% of respondents were sexually assaulted in a Victoria University setting.
- 6% of respondents experienced harassment in a university setting, including university grounds, teaching spaces or social spaces, and while travelling to and from university.
- Women were far more likely than men to experience sexual harassment.
- For VU students who had experienced sexual harassment, the most prevalent setting was on public transport on the way to or from university.
- 5% of VU respondents sought support and assistance from VU after their most recent experience of sexual harassment and even fewer made a formal complaint.
- Respondents said that the main reasons for not seeking support or reporting sexual harassment included that they thought the matter was not serious enough or that they needed help.
- Just over half of our students said that they had ‘little or no’ knowledge about where they could go at the university to formally report or make a complaint about sexual harassment or assault.
- Around half of student respondents also said that that they had ‘little or no’ knowledge about where they could go at the university to seek support and assistance in relation to sexual harassment or assault.
VU's response to survey results
In responding to the survey findings, the Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University Professor Peter Dawkins said, “Our first concern is for the wellbeing of students who have experienced, and are affected by, sexual harassment and assault”.;
“This kind of behaviour hurts and devastates people's lives,” Professor Dawkins said.
“Victoria University has a zero tolerance approach towards sexual assault and sexual harassment.
"We are committed to addressing what is a serious and difficult social issue, and the need to promote equitable respectful relationships.
“Everyone here has the right to live, work and study in a safe environment without fear,” he said.
Professor Peter Dawkins thanked the 508 Victoria University students who participated in the first-ever national survey of student experience of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
“We respect that every disclosure of sexual harassment and sexual assault can be difficult,” Professor Dawkins said. “The responses by our students to the survey will help support victims and survivors and assure against such occurrences happening in the future.
“The survey results may also be personally distressing for many of our students, staff and other members of our community who have an experience of sexual harassment or assault.
“If this is the case, I encourage any student or staff member who is feeling vulnerable or who may be experiencing trauma to please contact either our VU 24/7 Counselling Service (Student Counselling 9919 5400, Staff EAP 1300 327 288), or call the 24/7 National University Support Line on 1800 572 224."
University plan to promote safety on campus
Professor Peter Dawkins said the university was committed to improving its services for reporting and seeking help and to make sure all students knew how to access these services and how to assist others. “Victoria University will continue to work with staff, students and the wider community in the west to implement and develop initiatives to confront this critical issue,” Professor Dawkins said.
These include, but are not limited to the following.
- The Respect and Responsibility: Preventing Violence Against Women Ten Point Plan which is intended to improve the University’s awareness and response to sexual violence, and – in particular – prevention.
- The provision of specialist training as first responders for 39 Victoria University security staff in how to respond to sexual assault or to family violence on campus. Another 20 security staff are also scheduled for the next round of training.
- Establishment of Safer Community, a central point of enquiry, response and support for concerning, threatening or inappropriate behaviours.
- VUSafe App, which includes features such as an emergency alert, virtual friend walk and the ability to request a security escort or track the VU Shuttle Bus.
- Raising awareness and educating our students on matters concerning personal safety and wellbeing, while also working collaboratively with our student clubs and unions.
“This is only a small selection of initiatives Victoria University has currently underway and we are certain there will always be more that can be done.
“In light of the national survey findings and recommendations, I would like to reassure students and staff that the University as a whole is committed to continue leading a range of prevention and support programs in this area. We will also consider if new initiatives – or enhancements and extensions of existing activities – may be necessary to deal with these critical issues.
“Victoria University endorses and accepts all nine of the AHRC recommendations contained within the national report. We are also committed to working with Universities Australia to implement initiatives that will echo the UA ten-point plan.
“Victoria University will continue to work with students, staff, community partners and victims and survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment to increase university and community awareness of the attitudinal changes required to address the root causes of sexual violence, and the need to promote equitable respectful relationships.
“We also recognise that much more still needs to be done to address this issue.
“Preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault is a significant challenge for us all,” Professor Dawkins said