Rape support group urges universities to prepare for sexual assault report

Date: Jun 28, 2017

End Rape on Campus (EROC) has called on universities around the country to provide support to students who may be affected by the upcoming release of a national report into sexual assaults.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) survey examined sexual assault and harassment across 39 universities, receiving more than 39,000 responses to a Roy Morgan Research online poll.

AHRC under fire

The commission faced a huge backlash from participants in April after revealing that it would not publish the full results of the report and only intended to highlight ‘areas of action’ rather than make recommendations.

Since then, the AHRC announced that every university in the survey had committed to releasing the findings that relate to their institution. The commission also confirmed it would make recommendations.

Now, as the AHRC prepares to release to the report in the coming months, EROC has urged Universities Australia to fund a national 1800 hotline run by counselling service Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia.

EROC university recommendations

The campaign group also recommended that individual universities should begin making preparations to ensure students have the support network they need in the wake of the report’s publication.

EROC outlined five recommendations:

Raise awareness of campus counselling services: Universities were advised to put up posters across campus toilets providing guidance on how to access counselling. This information should also be prominently displayed on the academic institution’s website and in any materials associated with the report.

Ensure counsellors are adequately trained: On-campus counsellors must be given trauma training and refresher courses on how to deal with sexual assault victims. If there are no counselling services, these should be implemented before the report’s release.

Provide training to other on-campus personnel: Aside from counsellors, various other people should be given training on how to correctly and compassionately respond to sexual assault disclosures. This should include student representatives, complaints office staff, resident advisers and heads of college, among others.

Advertise available support: Universities should promote other services that affected students can access, such as legal, financial and housing support, as well as academic considerations like essay extensions.

Organise forums: Student representative bodies can help run public forums designed to bring people together to discuss the issues raised by the AHRC. These events should also include sexual assault services for attendees.

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