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September 18, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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Thursdays in Black report ‘In Our Own Words’ released

CW: Sexual Assault


Thursdays in Black Aotearoa (TIB) released its In Our Own Words report on August 24, detailing the prevalence of sexual violence in New Zealand universities. The report found that 83% of respondents reported being sexually harassed on a university campus, and 53% of respondents reported having been sexually assaulted during their time at university.

“The report gives us our first real insight into the different ways that students experience sexual violence before and during their time as a tertiary student,” according to the report’s author, Izzy O’Neill.

TIB received 1403 responses to the opt-in survey between September and October 2016, which indicates the prevalence of sexual violence at universities — half of those surveyed suspected a friend had been sexually assaulted, and 25% believed that they had witnessed a non-consensual sexual activity.

The report was described by Gender Minorities Aotearoa as the “first fully gender minority inclusive research report on sexual assault in [New Zealand],” due to its recognition of minority and non-binary sexualities and genders regarding incidents of sexual violence. The findings included that 100% of transgender women reported sexual harassment, as did 86% of Māori and 83% of Pasifika respondents.

VUWSA President Rory Lenihan-Ikin commented on these results, stating that “In particular, people of gender, sex, and sexuality minorities suffer disproportionately at the hands of sexual violence, as do people with disabilities. We must keep in mind the needs of these communities as we move towards a world where every student’s right to a safe education is realised.”

Of those who had been sexually assaulted, less than 2% reported all of the details of the sexual assault to their university, and less than 10% reported any details whatsoever.

70% said that they did not think there was any point to reporting sexual assault, as their university would not do anything.

A number of recommendations were made to improve teaching on consent, and to help survivors of sexual assault. 25% of the respondents reported that they had never learned about consent, while only 21% thought that their teaching of consent was “above average,” a result which supports the Education Review Office’s previous findings that “the majority of sexuality education programmes were not not effectively meeting students’ learning needs.”

A main recommendation was better mandatory teaching to all secondary and tertiary school students on consent and sexuality.

Also recommended in the report were better support services from universities, with only 20% of those reporting they had been sexual assaulted saying that they had accessed support services, as they did not believe that they were generally helpful. Included in this recommendation was better cultural support for minority groups, as well as a removal of caps on access to services and a commitment to shorter wait times. One respondent to the survey stated that they “had failed many papers due to the impact of my rape and have had to take longer to graduate because of this.”

Universities were urged to update policies to ensure fair treatment of complaints and reports, and to allow and support independent reviews of university practices and responses to sexual assault complaints. Further academic research was also requested to be allowed to freely occur within tertiary institutions, given the prevalent rates reported by students — 81% thought that sexual assault was a problem on their campus.

Lenihan-Ikin commented that “this report is the first time that students have had the opportunity to share their experience of sexual violence in this country, in this way. Its findings give weight and authority to what we’ve always known to be true — that there is a huge amount of work left to do to end sexual violence in student communities.”

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