Creating a culture of safety around sexual harm at Western

TW: This report contains content about sexual harm that some readers may find distressing. You can find support services and resources below. When a U...

TW: This report contains content about sexual harm that some readers may find distressing. You can find support services and resources below.

When a US-based documentary called The Hunting Ground was released in 2015, highlighting issues around sexual assault on campus – this became a catalyst for conversation in an Australian context that persists to this day.

Unveiling themes of misogyny, victim blaming, and institutional failure, the documentary paints a vivid picture of the deep-rooted challenges in responding to sexual violence – and Australia’s tertiary system is no stranger to this.

A year after the documentary was released, Universities Australia launched the Respect Now Always campaign, aimed at reshaping how universities respond to reports of sexual harm.

Fast forward to 2021, Australian Universities conducted a National Student Safety Survey (NSSS), the first data collection of its kind to highlight underreported incidents of sexual harm.

Out of the 43,819 students surveyed, 1 in 20 students reported experiencing sexual assault while at university, and 1 in 6 faced sexual harassment. Despite these numbers, the majority chose not to report  – and underreporting is common in this space.

CAPTION: Image obtained from NSSS: available at https://www.nsss.edu.au/

How is Western responding?

In the face of these sobering findings, Western Sydney University (WSU) refuses to be complacent. Respect Now Always isn’t just a campaign – but a commitment to the safety and security of our student community.

Here, there is No Wrong Door for reporting sexual harm. WSU encourages individuals who have experienced sexual harm or those aware of someone who has, to come forward and make a report. And remember: there is no time limit for reporting, and every door is the right one when it comes to addressing sexual harm. Students can report to any University staff member, The Office of People if the report includes a staff member, or anyone you trust and feel safe with.

How can I report sexual offences on campus?

WSU encourages students to report sexual harm via the Sexual Offence Reporting Portal (SORP), a confidential online reporting process for all students and staff, that can be accessed from the WSU website. The University aims to respond to reports as soon as possible (within 1 business day). Reports can also be made to the Complaints Resolution Unit directly. The portal is not for emergency use, and students should contact NSW Police or seek assistance from their nearest hospital or GP in an urgent situation.

The university offers a Student Case Coordinator (SCC) service, which provides individualised assistance to students who have experienced sexual harm. SCCs provide information about the sexual offence reporting process and available options. SCCs are able to assist students with study adjustments and links to any further support required. To organise a time to speak with an SCC, email: scc@westernsydney.edu.au

If you feel you would like to speak to someone for support or information in relation to these issues, the following support services are available:

  • 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT.org.au)
  • Lifeline (lifeline.org.au or 13 11 14)
  • QLife (1800 184 527 or qlife.org.au)
  • Relationships Australia (1300 364 277 or relationships.org.au)
  • Mensline Australia (1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au)
  • WSU Office of People, which consists of staff members from both the Human Resources Team and Equity, Safety and Wellbeing team (02 9678 7575 or humanresources@westernsydney.edu.au).
(Credit: Western Sydney University)