NSW university ranks as Australia’s worst for sexual assault

Date: Aug 04, 2017

The University of New England has been identified as the academic institution with the highest percentage of sexual assaults in the country, according to new research from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

Four per cent of students surveyed in 2015-16 said they had been assaulted at the NSW-based university, which is significantly higher than the national average of 1.6 per cent. The figures include incidents that occuring during travel to and from campuses and university events held off-site.

Australian National University was second on the list, with 3.5 per cent of people polled claiming they had been sexually assaulted. Charles Sturt (3.3 per cent), the University of South Australia (3 per cent) and Bond University (2.7 per cent) also had a high proportion of attacks compared with the average.

Women are more likely to be attacked

The figures revealed that women were twice as likely to have been sexually harassed in a university setting than men last year. They were also three times likelier to be sexually assaulted.

Despite the prevalence of such incidents, the majority of victims failed to make a formal complaint to their university. Furthermore, just 4 per cent of respondents thought their university was doing enough to provide clear instructions and support services for sexual assaults.

The report highlighted various contributing factors to sexual assault and harassment figures, including:

  • Abuse of power: This not only included staff assaulting pupils but also senior students abusing their position as heads of clubs, sports teams and other social hierarchies at university;
  • Residential settings: Perpetrators were able to exploit easy access to campus bedrooms to commit their crimes; and
  • Alcohol: Victims regularly reported sexual assaults that occurred when they were inebriated or even unconscious due to alcohol.

Sexual assaults happening at “unacceptable rates”

AHRC Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said the findings make for unsettling reading.

“Almost a third of sexual harassment reported in the survey occurred on university grounds or in teaching spaces, while one in five of those who were sexually assaulted said that this occurred at a university or residence social event,” she stated.

“The unavoidable conclusion of the data we have gathered from more than 30,000 university students across all 39 Australian universities is that incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment are occurring at unacceptable rates at Australian universities.”

Anyone who has been a victim of institutional sexual abuse or assault, such as crimes committed at a university, may be eligible for compensation in NSW. As the number of attacks occurring at academic institutions across the state rises, we expect to see many more people come forward and make claims.

If you’d like to discuss some of the issues raised in this article, Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers offers a free, confidential consultation service, so please contact us today.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.