Almost half of Australia’s student population has experienced sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime, according to a sector-wide survey.
The National Student Safety Survey 2021, released today, found that one in six students have been sexually harassed since starting at university, and one in twelve have been sexually harassed in the past 12 months.
One in twenty students have been sexually assaulted since starting at university and 1.1% have been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months.
According to the responses of 43,819 students from 38 universities across Australia, women are far more likely to be sexually harassed or sexually assaulted than men, and sexually and gender diverse students are at significantly greater risk than all other groups of being sexually harassed or sexually assaulted.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people living with disabilities, and people from culturally diverse backgrounds, are also student cohorts at greater risk of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The survey found that the majority of perpetrators are male.
Universities Australia’s Chair Professor John Dewar, who is also the Vice Chancellor of La Trobe University, said the situation is “unacceptable”.
“No instance of sexual harassment or sexual assault should be tolerated, and our institutions must set the tone for what is expected from our future graduates,” Professor Dewar said.
“To achieve this, we need to continue in our efforts on prevention as well as providing support, compassion and fairness to all victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault in our institutions.”
Professor Dewar said education institutions must continue working hard to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault, and “eliminate destructive attitudes that foster it” within their universities.
“As we absorb the survey results, the sector will reflect on what else we can and must do, and we will engage expert partners as well as survivor and student advocates on effective future measures.”