“I would like to feel safe on campus”: An open letter to the University

The female student at the centre of the recent sexual harassment scandal pens an open letter to the University.

Dear USyd,

I am the anonymous female student Honi Soit and other media outlets have reported on. I had a picture of me taken during intercourse without my consent or knowledge by a male student. That photo was shown around campus. I was bullied and sexually harassed. Over the past ten months I have been depressed and anxious. At moments I believed suicide was the only way out. I felt unsafe, alone and isolated. USyd became my nightmare.

Since Honi Soit published the story, I have been overwhelmed by the support of the student population. Students have made it clear that the man’s actions and USyd’s response are not okay. Now, I ask you to fight with me. We are the only ones who can change this. We must lobby Dr Michael Spence for university-wide reform.

I would like to speak directly to you, Dr Spence. I ask you to meet with me. Let’s discuss how we can reduce sexual harassment on campus: publically admit its existence and develop policies to address it. You need to ensure the safety of students on campus and support vulnerable students. I speak for the majority of students on this matter; it is time for change. It is time to publically condemn these actions and for the male student to be expelled.

On a personal level I would like to feel safe on campus again Dr Spence, to finish my degree without feeling intimidated and sexually harassed. So please make a stand for what is right. Follow in the footsteps of the Vice-Chancellor of Otago University, who publically condemned similar actions of students. I look forward to hearing from you Dr Spence.

I would like to address some of the University’s recent actions I find concerning. Regarding the protection of the male student, I respect the University for protecting his privacy and safety. I only ask the same for myself as another student of this University. There was no action to protect me; no action in response to the intimidation and harassment I reported. I am deeply concerned what type of message this sends. By protecting a perpetrator and not a victim USyd is making it clear: do not speak up, we will not support you. How does this victim-blaming approach encourage any other victim of sexual harassment to report anything to the University?

The University also told the Australian Associated Press and ninemsn that the male student had been reprimanded. They never informed me of this. As the individual who brought the misconduct charges, I would have hoped that the University would inform me of any outcome. I asked Student Affairs and the Registrar to keep me up to date of the outcome but was never informed of any action. The media only has vague and unsubstantiated claims. Nonetheless, I am finding out more from news outlets, than the institution that is supposedly supporting me. Even if there was a punishment, this is justice in the dark. How can I know USyd took my report seriously if I am unaware of the outcome? I ask Dr Spence and Student Affairs to inform me of their actions, if any.

To my fellow students, do not seek out the man who did this to me. He has admitted his actions in writing. Yes what he did was wrong and harmful; he showed no respect for me as a person but I do not wish for any one to experience what I have experienced. Instead we must use this groundswell of support to create a campus where sexual harassment is rare. Students (regardless of their gender) need to feel supported when they come forward. I would like to wholeheartedly thank every single student and member of staff who has supported me. I know if we work together, we can ensure a culture of respect at USyd; a place where no student has to go through what I went through.

Yours Sincerely,

Anonymous female student