University residences should be doing everything possible to stop sexual violence on campus


The Issue

Sexual violence on campus

The Australian Human Rights Commission landmark Change the Course report revealed that sexual violence is being perpetrated at alarming rates in our universities. 

It showed that:

  • 10% of all female university students were sexually assaulted in just the two year period of 2015/16. 2.3% of female students were sexually assaulted in a university environment. 
  • Students living on campus are disproportionately likely to be affected. While students living on campus made up just 7% of student population surveyed in 20151/6; but they accounted for 34% of the students surveyed who had been sexually assaulted in 2015/16. 
  • 63% of students who witnessed another student being sexually assaulted at university in 2015/16 did not take action in response. A third of those said they did not know what to do.

In this context, survivor advocates report that staff dealing with disclosures of sexual violence often don’t know how to respond appropriately; increasing the risk of further traumatising survivors who have worked up the courage to report such violence.


The importance of training to prevent sexual violence

Too many students don’t know what it means to get informed consent. Increasing student and staff understanding of consent, and prevention of sexual violence is a crucial step towards eliminating the culture and attitudes that allow perpetrators to commit sexual violence unchallenged.

On Safe Ground: a good practice guide for Australian University responses to sexual assault produced last year highlighted the importance of training to prevent sexual violence. It recommended:

"Australian universities and residential colleges should implement evidence-based sexual violence prevention education programs that are specifically designed for the student university environment, relevant and applicable to diverse student groups, and delivered by professionally trained experts.

These programs should be delivered as widely as possible within the university, and should be particularly encouraged for staff and students in leadership and pastoral care roles.

Sexual violence prevention education programs should be delivered via diverse methods, including online and face-to-face. They should cover topics such as definitions of sexual assault harassment and consent, sexual ethics, bystander intervention, responding to disclosures, and myths around sexual violence.

Sexual violence prevention education programs should be conducted over multiple periods rather than in single sessions, and must be implemented each year to cover new student intakes and changes in university leadership and staff.

Such programs should be regularly evaluated to ensure ongoing utility."

University residences are in a unique position to lead the change required to address sexual violence on our university campuses. As the home-away-from-home for thousands of students at university, residences are a training ground for our young people in a formative stage of their lives. During “O-week” and throughout the year many university residences already offer programs and training aimed at improving student welfare. Given the alarming rate of sexual violence being perpetrated on campus, it’s time all residences made addressing this issue a priority; starting by providing best-practice training in consent and sexual violence prevention.


The survey process

In September 2016, Fair Agenda contacted all of the university residences in Australia with our first annual survey regarding what, if any, training they will provide to students and staff in preventing sexual violence. We have conducted this survey process every year since.

Fair Agenda is a community campaigning organisation made up of 36,000 Australians concerned about equality and fairness for women. We believe that no matter where you live, or attend university, you should be able to trust that everything possible is being done to ensure you're living in a safe environment.

The table of results on this website represents a summary of key survey responses provided by residences who have responded to this year's survey so far, regarding the training they are planning on providing to their students and staff in the upcoming academic year.

The full, detailed responses provided by residences is also available via the link on our homepage.

The Fair Agenda community is calling for university residences to do everything possible to create a safe environment for students – starting with training all students and relevant staff in consent and sexual violence prevention. Of course, consent training is an important first step, but is not the last. Supportive policies and practices around disclosure are also vital.

Will you join the call for action? Sign the petition at the bottom of this page to help show university residences around the country that this is an issue students, parents, alumni and the broader community all want them to treat as a priority. 

Please note: Fair Agenda is not a provider of consent and prevention of sexual assault training or services. If you are looking for a best practice provider, we would encourage you to check out our this list of sexual assault services that provide training that complies with the National Standards in this area, or contact your state sexual assault service for other recommendations.

-- If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, you can call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 for 24/7 support.--

Get Involved

To all Australian University Residences,

We urge you to do everything possible to prevent sexual violence on campus. As a first step, we call on every university residence to implement best-practice training in sexual consent and prevention of sexual violence for all students and relevant staff.

Will you sign?