Macquarie University has released its specific data from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s national survey about sexual harassment and assault on tertiary campuses.
Out of 41,311 students at Macquarie, 6945 were approached randomly and asked to complete the survey. 950 students responded.
Almost one third of this group experienced sexual harassment in a university setting. This includes on public transport to and from uni (24 per cent were on-campus incidents or occurred at events associated with the university).
The most common form of harassment reported was ‘inappropriate staring or leering’ at 38 per cent. Fifteen per cent of students experienced intrusive questions, 11 per cent were touched, hugged, cornered or kissed against their wishes, 9 per cent reported sexually suggestive comments and 6 per cent experienced inappropriate physical conduct.
Most of the sexual harassment – 27 per cent – occurred on public transport to or from the university. Other common locations of harassment are the university grounds and social spaces such as the Campus Hub.
37 per cent of respondents knew the perpetrators of their sexual harassment, and 75 per cent of the perpetrators were students from Macquarie.
77 of the 950 respondents to the survey had been sexually assaulted at least once in 2015 and 2016. Seventeen of these were assaulted in a university setting. Eighteen students reported witnessing sexual assault at the university.
The report notes that this is too small a number to draw significant statistical information from. Perhaps because of this, the university has not been provided with details about the nature and location of sexual assault on campus.
REPORTING HARASSMENT AND ASSAULT
While 52 per cent of respondents had experienced harassment (24 per cent in a university setting), 96 per cent did not report this harassment to the university.
A significant majority of students said they didn’t know where to seek support, where to make a complaint, or what the university’s policies are about sexual harassment and assault.
This information can be found at the newly launched support page for those impacted by sexual harassment and assault.
66 per cent of respondents didn’t think their experience was ‘serious enough’ to justify seeking support from the university. 16 per cent were worried the incident would be too hard to prove, 12 per cent felt embarrassed or ashamed, and 8 per cent were worried their offender would get ‘hurt’ or into trouble. Others reported worrying about confidentiality and said they did not want to report to the police.
We are lacking Macquarie-specific data about LGBTIQ students, students with a disability, and students who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
This is concerning given that nationally, trans and gender diverse students reported the highest levels of sexual harassment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and students with a disability also reported higher levels of sexual harassment in the national survey.
Over 1800 submissions of stories of sexual assault and harassment were made as part of the survey and included in the main report, but Macquarie will not be provided with the specific stories shared by its students. Some have speculated this is because of concerns for respondents’ confidentiality.
Additionally, Macquarie’s data was extrapolated from a relatively small sample size – 13.7 per cent of contacted students completed the survey. While sexual harassment and assault is more likely to be experienced by undergraduate students (as sexual violence most often occurs between the ages of 18 and 25), the majority of respondents were postgraduate students – 558 postgrad students responded compared to 392 undergraduate.
This has potentially skewed data, given that there is a third the number of postgraduate students compared to undergraduates at Macquarie.
The difficulty for survivors of sexual assault to respond to the questions of the survey should also be considered as a factor that influenced results.
Macquarie University has made a full statement upon the survey release. Vice Chancellor Bruce S Dowton has said, ‘One incident of sexual harassment or sexual assault is one too many. It is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.’
He will speak today at 3pm at the Respect.Now.Always. results release event.