Today the data from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s survey into Sexual Assault and Harassment on campus was released. This report showed what students have been saying for years; there is a nation-wide problem with sexual violence on campus. Over 50% of students were sexually harassed last year. 28% of UWA students were harassed on campus.
While this data shows us the extent of the problem and helps us understand the nuances of where it is occurring, we already knew there was sexual assault and harassment on campus and no level is acceptable. Because of this the UWA Student Guild and UWA have been working together for the past year to make changes to our policies and services to better support people who have been affected by sexual assault:
1. We have a new sexual misconduct (assault & harassment) policy which includes:
– An expanded and more clear definition of what sexual misconduct is
– A greater range of incidents that are considered under within the scope of the University. This means that UWA is now recognising that sexual violence involving two students or members of staff jeopardises the survivor’s safety on campus, whether the incident happened on campus, online or off site. We have a duty to take action and support survivors even whenever a member of our community has been made unsafe.
2. We have revised our reporting mechanism to have two clear options: ‘Disclosing’ and ‘Reporting’. Disclosing means that you are informing the university of what has happened but do not want to push forward with formal discipline proceedings. This is important because many survivors do not want to go through an investigation and that is their right. This option gives autonomy back to the survivors and means that they can still access the support that the university provides such as counselling or having the university help change classes and living arrangements so that they are separated from the perpetrator if that is their wish.
3. The UWA counselling service has been expanded so that at all times there will be an additional counsellor in the centre. There is also a phone service being introduced in the counselling centre which will allow students to immediately talk to a UWA counsellor during office hours. This means that students who are in crisis and need immediate support will be able to access a counsellor, and not have to go through the triage process and waiting time for an appointment.
It is important to acknowledge that there are students that have been failed by this process before. Students who came seeking justice and did not get it. Without their bravery speaking out and demanding better, we could not have made the progress we have made and will hopefully continue to make.
Today belongs to you.
Posted on August 1, 2017