More than half of Australia’s university students were sexually harassed last year with women and LGBT students most affected, according to a survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission that is calling for action to crackdown on this abuse.
The survey of more than 30,000 students from Australia’s 39 universities found 51 per cent of respondents experienced sexual harassment at least once in 2016, and nearly seven per cent were sexually assaulted at least once in 2015 or 2016.
Women were almost twice as likely to be sexually harassed and more than three times as likely to be sexually assaulted with 63 per cent facing sexual harassment.
Students identifying as members of the LGBT community also received disproportionate amounts of harassment with up to 75 per cent reporting sexual harassment.
The poll was conducted following a growing outcry from students regarding sexual assault and harassment.
“The evidence is clear that universities need to do more to prevent such abuse from occurring and to build a culture that responds appropriately to these incidents by supporting victims and sanctioning perpetrators,” Kate Jenkins, the Commissioner of Sex Discrimination, said in a report accompanying the survey.
Despite the high numbers reporting sexual harassment and assault, few came forward to officially complain.
The survey found about 94 per cent of students who reported being harassed and 87 per cent who reported experiencing assault did not formally complain or report this to their university.
To counter this, the Commission released an eight-point plan encouraging university officials to take more responsibility to help prevent and educate students about sexual assault and harassment.
The plan called for universities to spread information about what constitutes sexual assault and harassment, promote resources for reporting such incidents, and to review all policies on these issues through an independent body.
The Australian Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, said he had written to each university asking for their response to the survey and the plans for change.
“Sexual assault and harassment have no place in Australian universities, just as they have no place anywhere in Australia,” Birmingham said in a statement.