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Today is the National Day of Action against sexual violence. Students across the country are standing in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and harassment to demand that our universities take action to eliminate sexual misconduct in our communities. Curtin Student Guild stands with survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
The Change the Course report - prepared by the Australian Human Rights Commission - revealed alarming numbers of students who had experienced sexual harassment and/or assault on campus, on public transport to and from the university, online, and in university accommodation. Many of these survivors reported that they did not seek support from their university because they did not feel their case was important, they did not know how to seek help, or - particularly in the case of male survivors - they were concerned they would be ridiculed and no action would be taken by the university. A recent Freedom of Information investigation revealed 59 complaints about sexual assault, misconduct or harassment at WA’s four public universities in 2018 - 31 of these complaints came from Curtin. It is clear that we have a problem in our community.
It is important to acknowledge that women, LGBTQIA* people, First Nations people, people of colour, international students, people living in poverty and people with disabilities are the groups most highly affected by sexual violence, and that a lack of privilege, community and familial support, and access to resources leads to many survivors from these groups being unable to access the tools they need to effectively recover from their experiences and escape their perpetrators.
Curtin has acknowledged that sexual assault and harassment is prevalent in our community and commenced work on the issue; however, with 94% of Australian students claiming that that their universities are not doing enough, it is clear that there is so much more work to be done. One case of sexual assault and harassment is too many - 59 in a year is simply appalling. We demand that the Australian government and all Australian universities treat this issue with the urgency it deserves and direct increased funding and resources to eliminating sexual misconduct and assisting survivors, with a particular focus on ensuring that underprivileged groups are able to access the support and resources they need.
Survivors of sexual assault and harassment have a significantly increased likelihood of dropping out, seeing their academic performance suffer, or never attending university in the first place - nobody should miss out on a university education because they are afraid of harassment and assault.