All students have a right to an education free from sexual violence

Please help me because my uni isn’t.

I’m terrified of seeing him at uni and they told me the only thing I could do was download a safety app or make sure I walked in places he wouldn’t go.

The university told me to drop out of the class and take it next year, because he would have graduated by then and I wouldn’t have to sit in the same room as him.

I dropped out because the university told me they couldn’t help me.

My rape was awful but the way the uni responded was worse.

I know I can’t end violence against women, I just don’t want to sit in the same lecture theatre as the guy that tried to rape me.

When there’s been media coverage about sexual assault and harassment at Australian universities, the emails come in a flood. In between the coverage, they come in a steady trickle.

End Rape on Campus (EROC) Australia has heard from countless students and university staff members – both women and men – who have experienced sexual violence at the hands of fellow students and staff. Their stories are all different, yet remarkably the same. Each tells a story of trauma that was exacerbated by the response given by their university when they reported what had happened to them.

Another layer of trauma

Survivors of sexual violence within university communities frequently report to EROC Australia that they are unable to find the information they need to report the incident to their university, that they’re met with scepticism or outright dismissal when they do report, and that universities are failing to remove perpetrators of sexual violence from campuses. The institutional betrayal, survivors report, adds another layer to the trauma inflicted upon them, impedes their recovery, and jeopardizes their ability to complete their education.

Contrary to common rhetoric from administrators in the university sector, universities are uniquely placed to address sexual violence in their communities. All Australian universities have disciplinary and/or misconduct policies and procedures, some of which have legislative status. Such policies or procedures give university officials or decision-making panels the power to investigate student misconduct, make findings about whether the misconduct occurred, and deliver penalties, including suspension, expulsion or exclusion from university premises. Most university policies define misconduct widely to include academic misconduct such as plagiarism, as well as non-academic misconduct including sexual harassment and assault.

For too many decades, student activists have fought to ensure their campuses are safe for all students, and this fight is continuing today. End Rape on Campus Australia believes that all students have a right to an education that is free from sexual violence. We believe that universities are responsible for ensuring that such a right is realised and we will continue to fight to hold universities to account when they fail to do so.