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TW: This article contains discussion of sexual assault.
A submission, made by advocacy group End Rape on Campus Australia to the Australian Human Rights Commission, has accused all 39 universities across the country of “actively covering up sexual assaults.”
The submission claims that there has been only six assailants expelled from a university despite 575 reported cases of sexual assault in the past five years, with 145 cases being rapes. From the 575 reported cases, 153 cases were reported to the police.
Other than expulsion, some of the punishments for assailants included community service, writing apology letters, and a $55.00 (AUD) fine.
The submission claims that a significant number of the sexual assaults occur during the first few weeks of the academic year as students move into halls of residence and are in contact with strangers, and exposed to partying and excessive drinking. The submission identified a number of assaults as part of ‘hazing rituals’.
Anonymous victims of assault offered multiple accounts, as part of the submission, of their university staff being ineffective, victim-blaming, and being discouraged to go to the police or seek legal action. One woman was even told not to tell her parents of her assault.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics currently estimated that one in five women in Australia, and one in 25 men, have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15.
It is also estimated that one in five women in New Zealand will have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15, and women between the age of 16–24 are four times as likely to be victims of sexual assault than the rest of the population.
Sexual assault in and around university campuses remains an issue in New Zealand, including at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) as assaults have continued around the Boyd Wilson walkway since 2013, with the latest occurring on January 20, 2017.
VUW PhD student Samantha Keene studied sexual assaults on New Zealand university campuses for her Masters.
Keene stated that “universities are not immune from a wider culture that supports rape and sexual violence” but thinks VUW has “made good progress” in the effectiveness of support and response to sexual assaults on campus.
Keene also highlighted that the “myths about rape and sexual violence persist within university populations, and the stereotype that sexual violence only occurs late at night in a dark alleyway by a stranger is still a prominent one. In reality… the majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by somebody known to the victim.”
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, contact the Police, VUW campus security on 04 463 9999, the Wellington Rape Crisis on 04 801 8973, or the Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP hotline on 04 499 7532.