Universities commit to publishing new sexual assault figures

Date: Apr 26, 2017

Thirty-nine Australian universities have announced they will publish new figures outlining the rate of sexual assault on campuses across the country, following outcry from survey participants.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) conducted the research, but initially claimed it would not release the full results. According to Fairfax Media, 39,000 students took part in the survey, with some feeling betrayed that the commission would not make recommendations based on the findings or force universities to publish the data.

Nina Funnell, a former winner of the AHRC's community award, described the research as "grossly unethical" and "unconscionable".

"I am one of over 1,000 individuals who spent a considerable amount of time detailing violent, horrific experiences, in the belief that it would contribute to meaningful change," she wrote in a letter to the nation's student leaders earlier this month.

Ms Funnell also said the commission was guilty of "exploiting rape and sexual assault survivors, by mining them for their stories and luring them into participation under false pretence".

AHRC disputes ethical claims

However, the AHRC subsequently revealed in a press release that all 39 universities that were included in the study have now committed to publishing sexual assault statistics relating to their institution.

The commission also countered claims that the research was unethical, stating that it had received approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee at the University of New South Wales.

Special adviser to the commission Matt Hall was quoted by Fairfax Media as previously saying the survey results would "identify areas for action and reform, rather than [make] recommendations".

The AHRC backpedalled on that stance this month, stating that it would be releasing a report with guidance in mid-2017.

"We will be making recommendations on areas for action and reform for universities to ensure that improvements will be made," said Kate Jenkins, sex discrimination commissioner for the AHRC, in an article for Fairfax Media.

Facilitating change in institutions

The commission's last report into sexual assault provided 14 recommendations, which have been widely praised for helping reform the Australian Defence Force.

According to the AHRC, the latest research was started in response to concern about the perceived lack of action regarding sexual assault cases occurring on university campuses.

Compensation is available for victims of sexual assault, and Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers has the skills, experience and compassion to assist people in seeking justice through the courts. Please contact a member of our team for more information.

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