One in three Australian university students (30.6%) has experienced sexual assault at least once in their lifetime, according to the findings of the 2021 National Student Safety Survey (NSSS) released on Wednesday.
The National Student Safety Survey suggests that International students were less likely to have been sexually harassed than domestic students. Australia’s National Student Safety Survey results were released on 23 March 2022 as reports authored and issued by the Social Research Centre (SRC).
According to the results, one in five (17.9%) domestic students had been sexually harassed in a university context compared with one in ten (8.6%) international students.
“One in ten (9.0%) domestic students had been sexually harassed in a university context in the past 12 months compared with one in twenty (4.4%) international students. Students who mainly speak English at home were more likely to experience sexual harassment than those who speak a language other than English at home,” the report stated.
According to the results, in a university context, 18.6% of students who mainly speak English at home had been sexually harassed compared with 9.6% of students who speak a language other than English at home.
“In a university context in the past 12 months, 9.3% of students who mainly speak English at home had been sexually harassed compared with 4.7% of students who speak a language other than English at home,” it stated.
The survey conducted by the Social Research Centre, has found that one in six students have experienced sexual harassment since starting university. The survey also found one in 20 (4.5%) had been sexually assaulted in a university context since starting their studies. In the 12 months preceding the survey, 1.4% of women and 0.6% of men reported experiencing sexual assault in a university context.
Rates of sexual harassment were much higher. One in two students (48.0%) had experienced it at least once.
Bond University in Queensland has the highest reported prevalence of sexual assault among students since they started studying, according to the survey that covered Australia’s 39 major universities.
Of the Bond University student’s surveyed, 13.2 per cent said they had been sexually assaulted since they started university, which is almost three times the national average (4.5%). Bond University was one of the few institutions to offer the survey to every student aged 18 and older. Other universities offered the survey to a sample of students.
12.3 per cent of students surveyed from the Australian National University (ANU) said they had been sexually assaulted since they started university.
In the survey, sexual assault was defined as non-consensual sexual contact or acts including rape, fondling of sexual body parts, sexual kissing or sexual penetration.
Bond University has announced the establishment of a task force “to oversee an inquiry, review and reform” the prevalence of sexual violence at the university.
Australian National University, Bond University and James Cook University recorded the highest levels of sexual harassment among the 39 institutions that participated.
Prof. John Dewar, Chair of Universities and the Vice-Chancellor of the La Trobe University, who released the report , said, “From this survey, we know sexual harassment and sexual assault continue to occur in university communities, but it is not limited to campuses. It can occur in students’ own homes, in residential colleges, pubs and clubs. These are the places where students live, work, study, travel and socialise. The results of this significant survey are distressing, disappointing and confronting. Too many students have experienced sexual harassment and sexual assault, not only in their time on campus but away from university and over the course of their entire lifetime.”
The survey has found that women are far more likely to be sexually harassed or sexually assaulted than men. Also, it has found sexuality 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 majority of perpetrators are male.
Detailed 2221 survey results can be viewed at the National Student Safety Survey website.
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