Last Tuesday, the Australian Human Rights Commission released the results from its nation-wide survey into sexual assault and harassment — although, if you’re the kind of person reading this editorial, you probably already knew that. The survey is the result of years of activism in response to alarming reports of sexual assault and harassment on campuses — some examples from USyd can be found on pages 14–15.
The survey revealed some disturbing statistics (which you can read more about on pages 10–17): 2.5 per cent of University of Sydney students were sexually assaulted at university in 2015–2016. Given the number of USyd respondents, this equates to about 23 cases. Extrapolated to the entire student population, this could mean 1250 students were assaulted in 2015 and 2016. Further, over 73 per cent of USyd students knew nothing or very little about where to make a complaint with the University about sexual assault, compared to the national average of 61.4 per cent.
But on top of the statistics, the submissions paint a vital ‘human’ picture of campus culture around the country. One student describes not reporting their assault because they “felt too ashamed. I was sure I would be blamed for drinking, for smoking, and so I didn’t tell anyone.” Other stories from college describe a culture of binge drinking and residents assaulting highly intoxicated female students.
In the last few lines I have left of this editorial, I’d like to thank all of the activists and survivors who have bravely shared their experiences, their time and immense amounts of emotional labour to fight for our safety. There’s a long way to go, but this is a very important — and hard-won — step on the way to change.