CW: Sexual Assault and Harassment.
Joint statement from UMSU President and UMSU Women's Department on the National Student Safety Survey (NSSS)
(content warning: sexual assault and harassment)
On March 23, the results of National Student Safety Survey (NSSS) were released by the Social Research Centre. The survey was conducted between September to October of 2021 by Dr Anastasia Powell (RMIT) and the SRC aiming to “encourage students to share their experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault”. The results demonstrated the devastating impact that sexual assault and harassment is having at universities.
According to the NSSS, 1 in 6 university students have been sexually harassed and 1 in 20 students have been sexually assaulted since starting university. You can find the full national report here and the University of Melbourne's results here.
The Universities Australia chair, John Dewar, has apologised to survivors of sexual assault and harassment saying that he is “deeply sorry to every university student who has experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment.” UMSU believes that actions speak louder than words and the current results are reflective of university inaction over the past five years. From our University and Universities Australia, we demand action not apologies.
Notably, statistics on incidence of sexual violence and hesitancy to report are more damning for marginalised groups – queer, BIPOC (Bla(c)k, Indigenous and People of Colour) students, and students with a disability. Over 40% of non-binary and gender diverse students have experienced sexual harassment, and 12.8% experiencing sexual assault. The University must acknowledge the role that power dynamics and discrimination plays in the perpetration of this violence through this overrepresentation of marginalised groups.
The reports revealed deep flaws with university reporting processes. Students lacked knowledge and confidence in university reporting and support systems. The University of Melbourne ranked below other universities in student knowledge about reporting and support systems. Nationally, survivors criticised the complaints and reporting processes they encountered, with the results finding reporting and complaints processes often compounded trauma. The lack of confidence that students have in reporting processes demonstrates that universities need to hold perpetrators to account.
UMSU is committed to advocating for survivors of sexual assault and harassment. In the coming weeks, we will be focusing on reporting processes and the need for greater accessibility, transparency, and independence.
These results may be retraumatising for survivors of sexual assault and harassment — we encourage you to reach out to support if needed:
Provides free and confidential services including a helpline, online chat, and interpreter service for survivors of sexual and family violence.
Sexual Assault Crisis Line Victoria
After-hours, confidential, telephone crisis counselling service for people who have experienced both past and recent sexual assault.
1800 806 292
The Safer Community Program
Provides support and advice for University of Melbourne Students who have experienced sexual assault and harassment.
UMSU Sexual Harm and Response Coordinators
For students at the University of Melbourne we provide referrals and support with navigating complaints processes.
UMSU Women's Department
Kraanti Agarwal & Lauren Scott