Protestors stood in silence at Wesley College, lit by candles and with mouths sealed by tape, to protest sexual harassment and assault on campus and in colleges this evening.
Police officers and college security attempted to block protestors passage past the gates on the college grounds, but protestors peacefully pushed past to stand outside the college’s main doors, which were locked.
“The police were pretty tolerant,” said Anna Hush, SRC Wom*n’s Officer, who led the action. Though police stood by after protestors gained entry, Hush also said they “were emphasising to me the importance of reporting sexual assault to the police”.
“You do have the right to report [assault] as a crime, but the University also needs to deal with the issue as they have the authority to discipline students.”
The student protest demands included for Wesley College to release the names of the editors of the 2014 Wesley Journal, which college master Lisa Sutherland has refused to do in response to investigation by Sydney University.
Protestors also called for mandatory sexual harassment education for all college students at the University.
Disgruntled and curious college students were asked to move on from the gates by administration staff. At one point male college students called to the silent protestors: “Speak up!”.
Hush gave a short speech announcing the goals of the protestors, calling attention to the University’s responsibility to protect women and to the specific Wesley College incidents of sexual harassment as other protestors held a silent vigil before chanting “No more slut shaming, no more victim blaming!” as they left the college grounds.
The protests have occurred a week after a Pulp investigation revealed the 2014 Wesley Journal published a “Rackweb” of all intercollegiate “hookups”, and referred to specific female students “Biggest Pornstar” or “Best Ass”.
It also follows new revelations that Wesley students entered the King’s Court massage parlour and took photographs of sex workers there without consent. The college students have since apologised for the incident.
The protest however, also focused more broadly on the failures of the University and particularly of the colleges to adequately respond to endemic sexual harassment and assault on campus.
“You so often hear about these things as scandals, but they’re not really scandals, they’re just things that go on that are slowly being revealed,” said Olivia Borgese, an SRC Sexual Harassment Officer.
Former SRC Education Officer Blythe Worthy added: “There are women including myself who have been sexually harassed on campus and since the college has chosen inaction, we’ve chosen direct action.”
The protest occurred on the same day the results of a university sexual harassment survey, conducted last September, was released by email from Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence to all students.
In the release, amongst other findings, it was detailed that nearly one in four of respondents had experienced an incident of sexual assault and harassment during their time as a student at the University, and of those only 18.9 per cent reported it to anyone.
Photo by Eunice Huang