Warning: The following story discusses an instance of sexual harassment on campus, mentions rape, and contains the definition of a sexually violent phrase. If you are in need of support please visit www.mq.edu.au/respect.
Yesterday a man wearing a hoodie printed with a sexually violent phrase was seen in the Campus Hub and approached by security.
It was the day after the Australian Human Rights Commission released its report about sexual assault and harassment on university campuses.
Students and the Macquarie Women Facebook page quickly shared a warning of the man’s presence on campus, concerned that other students would feel unsafe.
The man’s bright orange jumper was printed with the phrase ‘maste rape’. Maste can refer to – among other things – a mixture of blood and semen that occurs as a result of rape.
James, a student who saw the man’s confrontation with security and briefly spoke with him, says that people in the Hub were visibly distressed and upset.
‘There was a woman standing nearby, crying,’ James told Grapeshot.
Another witness said a group of high school students were also present in the vicinity.
Concerned that the man was unaware of the meaning of the phrase on his clothing, James approached.
‘I get up, walk over and ask, “Mate, why are you wearing a jacket that says rape?” to which he replies, something to the effect of, “I don’t know, it just does.”’
A security officer approached the man, asked for his campus card and took down his details. Eventually, he removed the jumper, after being also approached by another staff member and the student who made the initial formal report to security, Alysha.
‘I wanted them to take the hoodie off him altogether and escalate immediately,’ Alysha told Grapeshot. ‘They told me that there was nothing they could do, it was up to some committee whose name I didn’t catch. I told them it made me feel unsafe and that it was clearly intentional, considering the royal commission results yesterday, and their response was “why do you feel unsafe, you shouldn’t feel unsafe” not “how can we make you feel safe”. They took my details again and said they would be in contact.’
Despite initial speculation that the man was an international student who may not have understood the phrase, James claims the man had an Australian accent: ‘he was not an international student, and fully understood what the word meant.’
However, he says he didn’t get the impression the man was ‘making any kind of pro-militant rape stance’, rather speculating that it was ‘a spectacularly stupid wardrobe choice.’
The hoodie has been traced back to a Chinese streetwear brand called Masterape. While perhaps unintentional, the President of the Women’s Collective, Jasmine Noud, says any distress caused is valid, and could have been avoided.
‘The intention behind an action is irrelevant if it causes people to feel re-traumatised, or become incredibly distressed, as was the case here,’ Noud told Grapeshot. ‘If anything, this further proves a point as to the necessity of consent and respectful relationships training for all students at Macquarie; in the case that this student was unaware of the slogan he was wearing, mandatory training on triggers, consent and rape culture could have ensured this highly distressing situation never occurred.’
The incident comes the day after the release of a report that shows 1 in 3 Macquarie University students had been sexually harassed in a university setting.
Macquarie Women have made a list of demands this week to the university to mitigate sexual harassment and rape culture on campus, while improving support for those impacted by sexual violence.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Kevin Jameson said to Grapeshot in a statement:
‘We received a number of complaints regarding a slogan on a student’s sweatshirt yesterday, and have since spoken to the student in question. He removed the sweatshirt when asked by Security Services, and has since expressed regret for any offence caused. At the University’s request, he has agreed not to wear it again; the sweatshirt is part of a Chinese streetwear brand and we are satisfied that this was a genuine misunderstanding. The Vice-Chancellor has made it very clear that the welfare of our students and staff is always our first priority, and we are committed to working together to create a safe space in which we can all study and work.’
For internal and external support lines and information, please visit www.mq.edu.au/respect.