Universities Ignoring Women’s Safety – Report
2 February 2016 at 4:55 pm
A new report has revealed “alarming” statistics about the experiences of women studying in Australian universities including a high incidence of sexual assault and harassment and very low reporting rates.
The National Union of Students survey called Talk About It found that over 72 per cent of female students said that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment while studying tertiary courses.
Another 27 per cent of national survey respondents indicated that they had experienced some form of sexual assault while enrolled in their current course (although not necessarily while on campus). Nearly 14 per cent said they had experienced rape or serious sexual assault.
The report also found that another 15.7 per cent of women students said they had experienced some form of physical mistreatment while enrolled in their current institution.
Physical mistreatment covers a range of violent behaviour ranging from hair pulling to slapping and strangulation, burning or having a weapon used on the student.
And the report said the level of reporting to police any incidents of the sexual harassment, physical mistreatment or sexual assault was very low.
Some 5.5 per cent of incidents were reported to the university concerned and just 4.8 per cent were reported to police.
National President of the National Union of Students, Sinead Colee, described the findings as “alarming” though not surprising because there was already significant anecdotal evidence about the experiences of women at Australian universities.
“The survey has a number of implications for universities and their provision of student services,” Colee said.
“What’s really alarming is that for the 75 per cent of women who had reported cases of sexual harassment or assault say very little was done about the complaint.”
She said the results reflected a serious environment with a culture that would not encourage women to come forward.
“When such a large number of women are still feeling that their cases are not serious enough to report (81 per cent), universities need to have a complete overhaul of what can be very haphazard reporting processes and provide improved safety measures, such as increased lighting and security,” she said.
“It is clear, now more than ever, that universities must do more for women on campuses so that they feel safe and able to complete their studies.
“The data we have put together is important in quantifying the needs of women studying at universities around Australia.”
The survey also looked at accommodation, safety, student services, and economic difficulties that women enrolled in tertiary education institutions face.
The report said that women students had a range of experiences which impacted on their ability to participate in and succeed at university including financial difficulties, health problems and family responsibilities.
The NUS report made recommendations to support women studying at university, including providing increased funding for 24 hour counselling and advocacy, and clarifying reporting procedures for incidents of support or harassment at university and increased on campus security.
Download the full Talk About It report here