Australian universities are moving to introduce trauma plans ahead of a report on sexual assaults on campuses due for release on August 1.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) report will detail the extent of sexual abuse in universities after a first-of-its-kind
Ahead of the report, universities are already investing in more counselling services.
University of Technology Sydney has taken on additional trauma-trained counsellors to be available on a 24-hour hotline. Staff have also been advised to be “extra conscious of the welfare of [UTS] students”.
Although previous data shows that women between the ages of 18-24 are most at risk of sexual assault in Australia, UTS Provost and Senior Vice-president Professor Andrew Parfitt said in an email to students that it's "not just a women's issue".
He said the report would provide information which is relevant to the entire student community.
“Given the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our society, we expect the upcoming report will confirm that a significant number of students have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment while at university,” he said.
Students and staff who have experienced sexual violence in the past may find this time particularly difficult
The AHRC conducted a survey of more than 30,000 students. The aim of the survey was to give an in depth look at the extent of sexual assault and harassment within Australian universities and how universities respond to it.
As part of the report, the AHRC will provide universities with data on the rates of sexual assault and harassment on their campuses. All 39 universities in Australia have committed to publicly release the data on the day it comes out.
“Students and staff who have experienced sexual violence in the past may find this time particularly difficult given the likely public and media focus on the issue,” Mr. Parfitt said.
UTS is hosting an information session for students and staff about the report on the day of release, which will include a question and answer session about the results and what the university has planned in response.
“Our aim is to have an environment at UTS that is respectful and safe for our entire community. Together with our student leaders, we are currently reviewing our complete approach to achieving this,” Mr. Parfitt said.
The report comes after years of advocacy by victims of sexual assault and their supporters for more public awareness about the issue as well as numerous high publicised controversies.
Last year, a report by Channel 7 revealed police reports of over 150 sexual assaults on campuses in Australia, including instances at RMIT, the University of Canberra, Melbourne University, Monash University, Sydney University, and Macquarie University. In one incident at Macquarie University, a woman was pushed into bushes on the campus and allegedly raped. Bystanders called the police.
Sydney University has also received ongoing criticism and media controversy for its response to alleged sexual assaults and harassment on campus and in residential colleges. Honi Soit, a student newspaper at the university, published reports obtained on freedom of information that showed only a little over a third of the formal complaints of sexual assault made to the university had been passed on to police.
Full results of the ARHC survey will be made available on August 1.