SASH continues to be pervasive in Australia, but it is not inevitable. Australian university students and staff look to university leadership to take a strong stance on preventing and responding appropriately to SASH. Rather than aiming to simply fulfil basic legislative requirements and perform in line with other institutions, Australian Universities should be aiming to make meaningful changes, to be sector leaders in the prevention of and responses to gender-based harm.
We know from Change the Course that 87% of students who experience sexual assault and 94% who experience sexual harassment in a university setting do not go on to report their experience. This demonstrates an apparent lack of faith from students in university processes for responding to disclosures of sexual harm. Students are not going to report experiences unless they honestly believe that doing so will make a difference, will create a positive change in their own lives and in the university community. Inaccessible and ambiguous policy suites and non-specialized processes for responding to disclosures are not going to build that trust. Australian Universities must listen to student voices and implement best practice recommendations. They must create better processes for ensuring a victim-centred and trauma-informed response to SASH.
We would urge the Australian Universities to adopt the full recommendations into the KPMG report Towards a Safer and More Inclusive Culture from the University of Adelaide. To prioritize the creation of independent integrity units in accordance with these recommendations, the establishment of Restorative Justice Programs and the redrafting of the policy suites to make processes simpler and more accessible for students
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