USQ defends systems for sexual assault, harassment
UPDATE 4PM: The University of Southern Queensland has defended its existing sexual harassment and assault support systems amid a landmark report that detailed the number of students who fell victim to the offences over a two-year period.
The Respect. Now. Always. survey, commissioned by Universities Australia and its 39 member institutions, was aimed at addressing sexual assault and harassment at universities.
The report drew responses from 538 USQ students in total, of which 46 per cent or 247 of those surveyed reported being sexually harassed in 2016.
Of that, 91 respondents or 17% said it happened on campus.
USQ Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Janet Verbyla said the survey found 0.8% of USQ respondents, or four respondents, had experienced sexual assault in a university setting in 2015-16.
"Human nature would normally say students who had experienced (assault or harassment) would engage in the survey because it would give them a voice," Prof. Verbyla said.
"We've already got in place ongoing mechanisms through which students can see support."
USQ students were more likely to be sexually harassed in teaching spaces including labs and lecture halls (26% of respondents) and university walkways and gardens (19%) than on public transport to or from campus (9%) or campus bars and refectory shops (3%).
Eleven per cent of respondents didn't know who to report harassment to at USQ, with 10% indicating they thought it would be too hard to prove.
"The sexual harassment can be a leer or a joke so where students gather, that's likely to happen and at USQ, most students are likely to gather in teaching spaces," Prof. Verbyla said.
"We have already available education about acceptable behaviour so we will continue ... this survey is a checkpoint, so we will continue with that.
"The survey, a lot of students reported they did not report sexual harassment because they themselves did not think it was worth reporting."
The data also revealed harassment victims knew the perpetrators in the majority of instances.
Despite more than 51% of surveyed students indicating they knew nothing or very little about where to go at the university to report sexual assault, Prof Verbyla said she was confident in the institution's systems.
About 41% indicated they had "some knowledge" about where to seek support regarding sexual assault, while almost 49% said they knew nothing or very little on the topic.
Prof. Verbyla said issues surrounding O-Week and hazing was not a concern for USQ, with residential college advisors following the university's standards of acceptance.
"But I will point out that we are dealing with adults (and) at some point the institution has no actual control or responsibility, but we do make available education information," she said.
"I think in this day and age we would all understand that it's not all about knowing, it's knowing where to find (information).
"Our focus is on making sure our website is as usable and the most important information is as accessible as possible."
EARLIER 11:40AM: THE University of Southern Queensland has revealed its sexual assault and sexual harassment figures as part of a nation-wide campaign.
More than 530 USQ students participated in the survey, with 0.8 per cent of USQ respondents reporting they had experienced sexual assault in a university setting in 2016 and/or 2015, and 17 % reporting they had experienced sexual harassment in a university setting in 2016.
The figures are slightly down compared to the University of Queensland in Brisbane, where 1.1% of students said they had experienced sex assault in a university setting and 28% reported they had experienced sexual harassment.
EARLIER: THE University of Southern Queensland has revealed its sexual assault and sexual harassment figures as part of a nation-wide campaign.
Late last year Universities Australia and its member universities commissioned the independent Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct the largest national survey of university students on these issues.
The largest survey of its kind undertaken across Australia's 39 universities is part of the sector's Respect. Now. Always. campaign aimed at addressing the challenges such issues have in every country and society.
The USQ survey results are available at www.usq.edu.au/respect and The Chronicle will breakdown the results later today.
Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Janet Verbyla said USQ expected respect for all students.
She said the survey provided USQ with a checkpoint on how well the university's approach to tackling these issues was succeeding.
"The findings from the survey will also help inform us on how we can continue to move forward in deterring sexual harassment and assault at USQ," she said.
"The survey results suggest, as do USQ's own reports, quite low rates of sexual harassment and even lower instances of sexual assault.
"The analysis of the data has not highlighted any additional concerns for USQ but we are paying close attention to participants' responses as part of our focus on our continuing improvement practices.
"At USQ, our ongoing and wide-ranging efforts to promote a safe and reassuring environment is built around positive relationships including mutual respect and support for diversity.
"We already have a number of comprehensive policies and procedures in place to ensure that any reported incidents of sexual harassment and assault within USQ are responded to fairly but firmly."
Prof Verbyla said the survey results suggested students were subjected to a higher level of sexual harassment and assault outside the university.
"USQ, being well known for its student support, will continue to give whatever assistance it can to any University member who experiences sexual harassment or assault anywhere," she said.
"Sexual harassment and assault is wrong at every level and in any location and USQ will continue to play its part in tackling head-on the circumstances and situations where such instances occur."
>>>MORE TO COME. The Chronicle will breakdown the figures in an update to come later today.