Sex assault: SCU dedicated to changing 'disturbing' stats

UPDATE 4.17pm:  SOUTHERN Cross University has called for a national survey into sexual assault and harassment at tertiary institutions to be held regularly as university leaders work to reduce abuse on campus.

The call by the university's Vice chancellor Adam Shoemaker comes following the release of the Change the Course report, which detailed results and analysis from the largest-ever national survey of Australian university students about the issue.

"I think it's a very wise idea to imagine a heath check on this issue at regular intervals because otherwise we won't know as a nation how we are doing," he said.

Prof Shoemaker said SCU would introduce preventative measures such as consent training as well as strategies to help increase low-rates of reporting sexual abuse highlighted in the survey.

"Whatever culture, language, country, religious group they are from, what no means and when no is stated and how its employed, it has to be very clearly done," he said.

Privacy and disclosure concerns Prof Shoemaker said had prohibited the institution from conducting such a survey to tackle the problem.

He said a national survey was effective in supporting students to speak out.

"We have not done a survey like this before because we couldn't, we needed the scale to do it and now we've done it," he said.

He ruled out funding to roll out new strategies or improve existing measures would come at a cost to students.

"We won't be increasing any student fees on this basis even if we need to pay more as an institution."

If anything in this story has affected or distressed you, you can contact National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service, 1800 737 732. 

TUESDAY:SOUTHERN Cross University Vice Chancellor Adam Shoemaker has called statistics of sexual assault at universities "unflinching and confronting" in a statement this morning.

The Change the Course report is the culmination of results and analysis from the largest-ever national survey of Australian university students on sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Universities Australia commissioned the Australian Human Rights Commission to undertake the survey last year where more than 30,000 students across 39 universities had their say on sexual abuse.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who complied the report, said it "tells a clear but disturbing story".

The report's key findings state that one in five students were sexually harassed in a university setting, excluding travel to and from university, in 2016 with women three times as likely as men to have been sexually assaulted in a university setting in 2015 or 2016.

More disturbingly, the survey found 94% of students who were sexually harassed and 87% of students who were sexually assaulted did not make a formal complaint to their university.

At Southern Cross University, the report showed that 17% of survey respondents experienced sexual harassment at university in 2016 and 2.6% experienced sexual assault in a 'university setting' in 2015 or 2016.

"It is simply unacceptable that this has occurred," Prof Shoemaker said.

"On behalf of Southern Cross University, I want to apologise without reservation to all of those persons under our care who have experienced sexual assault or harassment," Prof Shoemaker said.

"Every case of sexual assault or harassment is one too many.

"We have the potential to shape change, both in our own university communities and across society, and we will do so.

"Sexual assault is a crime. Sexual harassment is never OK.

"At Southern Cross University, we will listen - and we will act."

Further information for victims of sexual assault or harassment is available at www.scu.edu.au/help.

If anything in this story has affected or distressed you, you can contact the following support services:

• 1800RESPECT (Ph: 1800 737 732) - National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service

• Lifeline (Ph: 13 11 14) - 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention

• Beyondblue (Ph: 1300 224 636) - Mental health support

• Suicide Call Back Service (Ph: 1300 659 467) 


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