James Cook University has acknowledged the release of a national student survey on sexual assault and sexual harassment, and has identified a wide range of measures it’s taken to keep students and staff safe.
As part of its Respect. Now. Always. initiative, Universities Australia commissioned the Australian Human Rights Commission to undertake the first national university student survey on sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The national survey results can be found on the AHRC website.
Vice Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding said the JCU data identified the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault is in keeping with that reported by respondents nationally.
“These survey data show that younger, domestic undergraduate females are at higher risk and most commonly another male student known to the victim is the perpetrator of sexual harassment; and that harassment is more likely to take the form of offensive jokes or suggestive comments; followed by staring or leering; intrusive questions about private life or physical appearance, and unwelcome physical contact. We have also had confirmed for us the areas of higher risk where sexual harassment occurs on university grounds include learning and social spaces and within the residential colleges.
“The data also show that JCU students, consistent with the sector, have often not chosen to report incidents of harassment or assault, commonly because they did not think the incident was serious enough or they felt they didn’t need help.
“What is welcome, no JCU student responded that they felt the University wouldn’t help or take action or wouldn’t take their complaint seriously.
“The survey shows that we need to raise awareness with our students that sexual harassment and assault should not be tolerated. These are serious offences. One incident is one too many and we need to do more to prevent sexual assaults and sexual harassment.
“These results are confronting, and I understand they will be of great concern for staff and students at the University, as well as the wider community.
“No student should experience sexual assault or sexual harassment, and the University is strongly committed to preventing and addressing sexual assault and sexual harassment, wherever and whenever it occurs. We want staff and students to know that if you have been assaulted we will do all we can to support you.
“I want to assure the JCU community, and the wider community, that we have taken, and are taking, steps to make the University safer,” Professor Harding said.
She said the University is examining the survey’s findings to see what more can be done to prevent sexual assault and harassment, and to support students when they seek help.
“The AHRC’s recommendations have affirmed the action we have taken to date to improve student and staff safety. JCU has done, and is doing, a great deal of work to make the University safer for students and staff, but there is always more that can be done.”
To guide this process, JCU has engaged former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick in an external and comprehensive review of the university’s sexual harassment and sexual assault policies, and the cultural environment in which those policies are implemented.
“We have already introduced a wide range of practical measures to enhance safety, and improve the University’s culture and its reporting procedures for any incidents of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The recommendations of the Broderick Review will further inform this work,” Professor Harding said.