Culture

A Survey Has Found That One In Four Sydney Uni Students Have Been Sexually Harassed

The survey has come after sexual harassment protests at Wesley College this week.

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This article discusses sexual assault. 

A survey of University of Sydney students has found that of the 2000 students questioned, one in four had experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault during their uni years. It was also reported that of those students, only 18.9 percent had reported the incident. The survey (which was done by the university) was released after it was revealed that Sydney Uni’s Wesley College published a student-funded journal that slut shamed female students, apparently unbeknownst to Wesley College staff.

The pervasive culture of sexual harassment and bullying in Australian universities (particulalry in colleges) is a systemic problem rather than a matter of a few individuals. Sydney University women’s officer, Anna Hush, told The Australian that this survey had actually been conducted months ago (we found that it had actually been completed in September), so she was surprised as to why it had suddenly piqued the university’s interest.

“This is such a shock to me because I’ve been hounding them for (the survey results) all year, and nothing (happened),” she said. “And then in the middle of all this they send an email to all students. It’s bizarre. They’re obviously in damage control.”

The report recommended that the University of Sydney make a “clear statement” on acceptable behaviour on campus and that there be a “further review” of complaint handling procedures. The survey has come after a protest at Wesley College on Monday night, which aimed to force the college to release the names of the editors who worked on the Wesley Journal. Student newspaper Honi Soit, reports that the students also wanted the introduction of a mandatory sexual harassment education for all college students.

In another Honi Soit article, student Justine Landis-Hanley (who currently lives at Sancta Sophia College) revealed that similar incidents of sexual harassment have taken place at Women’s College, St Paul’s College and St. John’s College. The stories that Landis-Hanley recounts are pretty horrific. One student was “teased for weeks” after her alleged sexual assault was announced over the PA system at St. Andrew’s College (college “hook-ups” are regularly announced as part of a weekly round-up). The same student explained that younger female students were told by older college residents to line-up and grope the boy’s genitals as they walked out of a sexual harassment talk at uni.

The article detailed an annual party at St. Andrew’s College called ‘Fresher Fishing’, in which older students are paired with younger students with the aim of older students catching “the young fish and [getting] them in bed”. In 2015, older students auctioned off younger students who were lined up on their knees “like cattle in the college’s Highlander Bar”. Honi Soit also mentions that in 2012, St John’s College had to arrange for alternative accommodation for students who were “threatened by their peers for speaking up after a girl nearly died during a college drinking ritual”.

Justine Landis-Hanley told The Australian: “These colleges need to investigate their own systemic sanctioning of dangerous behaviours and take the appropriate steps to combat them”. It shouldn’t just be up to the students to dismantle this culture all by themselves, particularly as many of them have to continue living in these colleges. It’s not a stretch to think that many students, not just at the University of Sydney but across Australia, don’t speak up about toxic college culture for fear of the torment one attracts for not being able to ‘take a joke’.

Image via Twitter/Nina Dillon Britton

If you have experienced sexual harassment or assault, or want to talk about these issues, you can call 1800RESPECT. This service provides 24/7  professional counselling over the phone and is completely confidential.