This story discusses sexual harassment and assault at university. If you or someone you know are affected by the following story, you are not alone. To speak to someone, you can call the dedicated support hotline on 1800 572 224, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

Results from the latest study by the Australian Human Rights Commission have revealed that over half of university students experienced sexual harassment or assault in 2016, with 90% of them going unreported.

Kate Jenkins, the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, said that the main perpetrators of sexual harassment are fellow students, and the study found that of all the incidents, one in five students were harassed while on campus, on transport to university, at university housing, or an off-campus university-run event.

It was also found that 1.6% of students were sexually assaulted at least once in a university setting over 2015 and 2016.

The study also found that out of all the incidents in the last year, about half of students that were either harassed or assaulted knew the perpetrator – postgrad students were more likely to be harassed or assaulted by someone in a teaching position – and that the majority of those harassed or assaulted did not file a formal report or complaint about the incident.

This study is alarming, to say the absolute least. Over 30,000 students from 39 Australian universities participated in the national survey, and so the results are not in any way centralised to a certain single area. This issue is widespread and tertiary institutions are well overdue in needing to do something to curb the behaviour of its students and staff.

At the launch of the report, President of the National Union of Students (NUS)Sophie Johnston said that the “severity of gendered violence has once again been confirmed to us.”

“We have no other choice but to face this head on. For too long victims have been deterred from speaking out because of vague reporting systems and a failure to educate our communities on consent.”

The report’s findings are a big wake up call for the tertiary education community, and all eyes are now on the nation’s biggest education institutions on what they’ll do next.

From now until November 30, a specific hotline has been launched by End Rape On Campus Australia and Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia through Universities Australia for people affected by harassment and assault at university.

A specialist counselling team are available on the hotline 24/7, and has teletypewriter (TTY) capabilities and Telephone Interpreter Services available. If this story and report has brought up any issues for you, you can give them a call on 1800 572 224.

Source: Human Rights Commission / Change The Course
Image: Getty Images / Jeff Greenberg