Murdoch University joined Australia’s universities in collectively releasing survey data about sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The data was collected as part of the Respect. Now. Always. campaign – a joint initiative by Australia’s universities through Universities Australia – to raise awareness of sexual assault and sexual harassment and lift the visibility of support services for students at Australian universities.
Murdoch University Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen said the survey results were confronting and reveal that, when considering all aspects of their lives, 51 per cent of respondents surveyed across all universities were sexually harassed on at least one occasion in 2016.
“This is a watershed report and it is the catalyst for critical change,” Professor Leinonen said.
“Our shared responsibility as universities is to ensure every student is able to study in a safe and respectful environment.
“No one should experience sexual assault or sexual harassment, either in our communities or at our campuses.”
Professor Leinonen thanked the 456 Murdoch students who participated in the survey and shared their experiences. Murdoch University ensures that all its students both past and present, who have been affected by sexual harassment or sexual assault, have access to confidential counselling services to support them.
“While the reported incidence of sexual assault on campus at Murdoch University is much lower than the national average, 58 per cent of the students who responded to the survey reported experiencing some sort of sexual harassment in 2016,” she said.
“These incidents typically included leering, suggestive comments and offensive jokes.
“While the majority of the harassment occurred as our students travelled to and from university on public transport, it is deeply concerning that 20 per cent of these incidents occurred on our campus. We will not tolerate sexual harassment in any form at Murdoch.”
Murdoch Guild President Louis Williams endorsed the need for students to be empowered and supported to combat sexual harassment in all its forms.
“This is an issue for everyone in our community because one incident of sexual harassment or sexual assault is one incident too many,” Mr Williams said.
“The Guild has worked closely with the university to create new orientation programs to inform students and raise awareness on important issues such as appropriate behaviours and consent.
“We have also welcomed the development of a new mobile app which gives great practical support to help students stay safe, both on and off the campus.”
The MurdochSafe App, a free, custom-made safety app allows students to notify campus security services of their location and connect to police and emergency services. The app also provides students with access to a range of on-campus medical, counselling, safety and disability services.
Professor Leinonen said Murdoch campus security services are available 24 hours a day to escort staff and students on campus as required.
“We will not tolerate sexual harassment or sexual assault,” she said.
“We are providing practical and proactive support and we are determined to ensure our students and staff have the tools they need to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault.
“We are committed to maintaining a campus culture built on inclusivity and respect, supported by a range of practical initiatives, programs and services.
“We all have a role to play in ensuring our campus and our community are safe and respectful places in which to learn and to live.”
Murdoch acknowledges the release of the national survey results may trigger a need from students or staff to seek support.
In response, front-line staff have been briefed and additional counsellors will be available. External support services and our campus security service providers have also been updated.
Source: Murdoch University