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August 14, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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Australian Sexual Assault Report Released

Following requests from 39 Australian universities, the Australian Human Rights Commission released a report on sexual assault and sexual harassment in universities on August 1.

The report analysed information regarding students who had experienced sexual assault and/or harassment while at university or when travelling to or from university. It found that, out of the 39,000 students interviewed, one in five had been sexually harassed at or when travelling to or from campus. 1.6% of students reported being sexually assaulted in a university setting.

Commissioner Kate Jenkins wrote that in order to prevent the extreme prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in universities, universities needed to be more active in terms of prevention, through “building a culture of respect and [responding] appropriately by supporting victims of abuse and sanctioning perpetrators.”

Following the report’s release, a group of New Zealand students and academics made a series of OIA requests regarding specific data on the rate of sexual assault within universities over the last decade.

The request was made to all public tertiary institutions in New Zealand, with most universities and polytechnics — including VUW — acknowledging the request.

Student Luca Elder told Salient that the requests hoped to “highlight the inadequacies of universities and how much they will do to cover up or even not collect data [on sexual assault and harassment incidents].”

VUW academic, Samantha Keene, investigated sexual violence in halls of residence in her thesis “Risky Residences”. She concluded that “current responses to sexual violence are in many ways reactive rather than proactive, and need to be comprehensively developed to respond to the unique challenges provided within the university environment.”

Pam Thorburn, Director of Student Academic Services at VUW, told Salient that the university has recognised that “it is imperative that sexual violence is talked about because it is only through discussion and awareness that we can develop a culture of respect that condemns sexual violence.”

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