MEET THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN FIGHTING SEXUAL ASSAULT AT UNIVERSITIES
Women are being sexually harassed and assaulted on university campuses the world over. It’s a serious, harrowing problem – one that is often belittled at best or willfully ignored at worst by the very people who could help. Institutions are failing to protect their students from an alarming culture of rape, harassment and exploitation in what is meant to be a safe space. Anyone who has survived an attack at University knows how difficult it is to report it because they are often met with inaction, disbelief or negligence in return.
I’ve been following this issue in Australia for years and, for years, nothing changed. Survivors have been treated with hostility and a sinister disregard for the veracity of their experiences.
Then, on the 2nd August, the Australian Human Rights Commission released some statistics that demanded national attention. Their survey reached 300,000 people in 39 Australian universities and the results were damning. Fifty-one per cent of the students who responded to the landmark questionnaire had been sexually harassed at least once in 2016, with one in four of those happening on a university setting. The survey revealed that 6.9 per cent of students had been sexually assaulted, though experts have since said they suspect this number is artificially low due to the design of the survey and the reluctance of survivors to claim assault (a quick note on the difference between sexual harassment and assault: the 1984 Sex Discrimination Act in Australia defines harassment as ‘an unwelcome sexual advance’, ‘an unwelcome request for sexual favors’ or ‘other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature’ and assault as rape, sexual abuse or undesired touching).
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