SRC initiative addresses sexual violence on campus.

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Author: Bowen Fucile | Edited by Samanda Mularachchi

(Credit: Bowen)

In an era where safety on campus is of paramount concern, the Student Representative Council (SRC) has taken a bold stance to recognise the prevalence of sexual violence on campus, with a focus on women and gender-diverse students.

The SRC’s initiative, involving personal safety education and defence seminars, took place across three Western Sydney University (WSU) campuses this past June – Campbelltown, Kingswood, and Parramatta South.

This initiative was sparked in response to the National Student Safety Survey released in 2021, indicating that one in six students experienced sexual harassment since starting university in the past 12 months.

Amid broader national advocacy efforts this year, we have witnessed over 40 groups and individuals, including End Rape on Campus, Fair Agenda, and the National Union of Students, joining forces to issue an open letter to the federal government. The letter urgently called for nationwide measures across Australian universities to prevent and address sexual violence.

Sandy Lindsay, a former representative Women’s Collective within the SRC, proposed introducing these workshops to address the prevalence of sexual assault in higher education settings.

(Credit: Bowen)

 “I want to see an improvement in the culture at Western Sydney University by increasing the awareness of these issues… It’s not ‘boys just being boys’, not a cultural or language barrier, and not something which should be taken as a compliment. It’s harassment. It’s assault,” she says.

Additionally, Sandy was dedicated to empowering students to employ real-life skills and confidence to navigate dangerous situations effectively.

“Facilitating personal safety education and defence workshops will improve students’ confidence, normalise discussion, and reduce stigma associated with sexual harassment and assault,” Sandy states in her proposal to the SRC.

(Credit: Bowen)

Additionally, Sandy pointed out that statistics reveal sexual harassment disproportionately affects gender-diverse and female students. In addressing these imbalances, these workshops were tailored specifically for these demographics.

“The workshops were planned to not only address a deficit in confidence and skills in young women, but in several cohorts which are disproportionately victimised,” she adds.

Recognising the significance of this initiative, the SRC has approved a $4542.00 funding request for the workshops to be facilitated. The workshops were met with strong student engagement, with 100 students attending across the three locations.

“It was shocking to hear how many students had experienced sexual harassment and assault and confirms that Western Sydney University is not immune to the statistics published in the 2021 National Student Safety Survey,” shares Sandy.

This proposal marks a significant stride towards fostering a safe and inclusive campus environment for all students. By normalising dialogues about sexual assault and harassment, students are empowered to recognise and report on such incidents, protecting their safety and well-being. 

“Every Western student who joins the conversation about sexual assault and harassment gives power to this initiative, “says Sandy.

Samanda Tharaki Mularachchi

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