Introduction to Violence Submission: Safety on Campus

In 2010 NUS Women’s Department launched the Talk About It Survey, the survey ran from the end of 2010 through to the end of o-weeks in 2011. The report, released mid 2011, showed a worrying trend of violence against women on university campuses. The report is included as an appendix to this submission.

Any framework prepared surrounding Violence Against Women must include a consideration of the lived experience of women university students in Victoria. Universities are well placed to enact the focus on prevention and early intervention. An area which is in need of significant attention within the framework and universities is response, with many women, particularly in colleges, having the experience swept under the rug.

Reporting presented as a significant issue for female university students. With only 3% of those who stated they had had an unwanted sexual experience reporting it to their universities and only 2% reporting it to the police (Talk About It, 2011). Response can only work with increased reporting. Actions must be taken to ensure that young women feel safe reporting instances of violence on campus.

University campuses exist in a complex dichotomy, between State and Commonwealth assets, between public and private spaces and between public and private enterprises. This dichotomy cannot be seen as reason to ignore the violence which occurs against university students because it is ‘not this government’s problem. Those students who are victims of violence on Victorian university campuses must be included in this framework.

Students at university accommodation are particularly vulnerable to being victims of violence against women.  Quantitative evidence for this is difficult to attain, however there is significant evidence to suggest that colleges are unsafe places for women. There has been significant media attention to the issue, in particular following the release of ‘Talk About It’ in 2011.

Studies by NUS Australia, NUS UK and NUS NZ have all found varying degrees of problematic behavior within university accommodation. The UK research, entitled ‘Hidden Marks’ found that 25% of sexual assaults took place in public places, such as university colleges. In the NZ research ‘Are You OK?’ there was a particular focus on the importance of clear harassment policies.  However the Australian survey had a particular focus on women’s negative experience of university accommodation and sexual assault.

The NUS Women’s Department would like to stress the significant reported anecdotal evidence surrounding the risks associated with women and university accommodation. However, instances of sexual violence and assault are not contained within the university accommodation, instances of violence being reported across the university sector.

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