Message from your Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Scott Bowman AO
On Wednesday, 23 March 2022, Universities Australia released its findings from the National Student Safety Survey (NSSS). The survey collected data on the scale and nature of university student experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
This is the second survey run by Universities Australia on sexual assault and sexual harassment. The first survey was conducted in 2016. The methodology has changed, so it is not possible to directly compare the results of the 2016 research with the most recent survey. And while only undergraduate and postgraduate students were eligible for the survey, here at CDU we will ensure the recommendations incorporate improvements for our vocational students too.
A national quantitative report, a national qualitative report and individual quantitative data sets have been produced for each university, and in this message, I will share CDU’s results.
I know that conversations around sexual harassment and sexual assault can be distressing for members of our University and the wider community – please access support as and when you need it. A list of support services appears below.
Across Australia, 43,819 students participated in the survey. The national results are available here.
At CDU, 974 undergraduate and postgraduate students participated, a 9.8% response rate and more than double the participation rate of the first survey in 2016.
The results from the survey are clear. Too many CDU students experience sexual harassment and sexual assault.
- 12.4% of CDU students who completed the survey have experienced sexual harassment since starting university. Harassment was most likely to be experienced by women and people with differently defined genders (13.8% and 18.8%, respectively). The national average for experiencing sexual harassment is 16.1%, or 1 in 6 students.
- 4.6% of CDU students who completed the survey report experiencing sexual harassment in the last 12 months (against a national average of 8.1%).
- Sexual harassment was most likely to occur in general campus areas, such as carparks, walkways, gardens and bathrooms.
- CDU students report that sexual harassment occurs in the library at a higher rate than the national average (23.2% at CDU versus 15.6% national average).
- 53.7% of CDU students who completed the survey knew all or some of the perpetrators involved (against a national average of 50.7%).
- According to survey respondents, the perpetrators of sexual harassment were most likely to be other students (49.5%).
- CDU survey respondents report sexual harassment from staff members at a higher rate than the national average. 10.8% of CDU survey respondents identified their perpetrator as a tutor or lecturer (against 4.0% nationally).
- 4.2% of CDU survey respondents who were sexually harassed made a formal complaint (against a national average of 3.0%).
- 21.4% of CDU survey respondents sought support for sexual harassment (against a national average of 16.8%).
- In line with the national averages, 50.8% of CDU survey respondents said they knew nothing or very little about where to go to make a complaint about sexual harassment, and 48.6% of CDU survey respondents know nothing or very little about where to seek support or assistance.
- 3.8% of CDU students who completed the survey have experienced sexual assault since starting university.The national average for experiencing assault is 4.5%, or 1 in 20 students.
- 1.2% of CDU survey respondents report they were told or suspected another student was sexually assaulted in the last 12 months (against a national average of 4%).
- In line with the national average, over half (53.3%) of CDU students who completed the survey said they knew nothing or very little about where to go to make a complaint about sexual assault, and 43.4% of CDU survey respondents know nothing or very little about where to seek support or assistance.
The survey also asked students about their knowledge and attitudes towards sexual harassment and assault. The national survey reports that:
- 41% of students either agree or are neutral to the statement ‘Accusations of sexual assault are often used by one person as a way to get back at another person’.
- 36% of students either agree or are neutral to the statement ‘A lot of times, what people say is sexual assault was actually consensual sex that they regretted afterwards’.
- 33% of students either agree or are neutral to the statement ‘Many allegations of sexual assault that people make are false’.
These are deeply disturbing findings. It is clear to me that there is much more we must do to challenge these attitudes.
Starting with me, CDU leaders must take responsibility for taking all possible measures to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault and for responding effectively when it occurs. But a responsibility that every member of the CDU community must share is to foster a community of respect and creating a culture of care and concern for others.
Since the previous survey was administered in 2016, CDU has made progress in many areas related to the prevention of and response to sexual harassment and sexual assault. We have:
- Established a Respect.Now.Always Committee chaired by the DVC Students and VET. This Committee is still in place in 2022 and continues to meet and review CDU’s undertakings in regard to our 10-Point Action Plan and additional items raised by the Committee.
- Implemented Consent Matters – an online module to provide information to staff and students about sexual assault and harassment, what is it, and how to be a proactive bystander. The module is mandatory for staff, CDU Student Council, residential leaders and student ambassadors.
- Developed a Contact Officer Network, which comprises staff across CDU who receive training to assist others in finding support, making a report, or determining their next step.
- Launched online training in Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence for staff in job roles most likely to receive disclosures of sexual violence and for all members of the Contact Officer network.
- Developed a Quick Response Protocol for every CDU campus to inform staff on what action to take in the event of a student needing urgent assistance.
- Updated key policies – including the development of the Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment Prevention Policy and updating the Staff and Student Codes of Conduct.
- Managed a CDU Respect.Now.Always webpage and a Reporting Sexual Assault or Harassment webpage for staff, students or members of the public.
- Developed a broader Safer Communities program to identify and address issues regarding campus safety, that includes the prevention of gender-based violence, building an inclusive culture of belonging, addressing oppression and discrimination, and supporting students to manage their own mental health and wellbeing.
Our analysis of these most recent results has just started. At CDU, we have a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual assault and sexual harassment. We are committed to a primary intervention strategy to stop sexual assault and sexual harassment before it occurs. This means working with all university community members to ensure that everyone understands acceptable behaviour. It means understanding the higher prevalence rates for cohorts of students, those with intersecting identities, and ensuring that our work tackles structural and systemic bias. It also means understanding the social and other barriers that prevent people from both intervening and reporting. This is not easy work.
Importantly, I want to hear from you, the CDU community. What are we going to do about this? These are difficult issues that require a shared response. I will be leading a discussion on this with staff at our next staff town hall and working with Sam Jacob, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Students and VETv on hearing from students. We will be working closely with Lucy Dickson, CDU Student Council President, to both understand these issues and work on solutions.
I encourage you to share your thoughts and suggestions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our goal at CDU is to be Australia’s most connected university, but these results do not reflect a safe or connected community. We have to do better. Let’s start today on building a university that reflects our values, especially those around kindness, openness and courage.
Professor Scott Bowman AO
Vice-Chancellor and President
If you are a student who is affected by sexual assault or harassment or you have any questions, please contact Student Support on 08 8946 6264 or email email@example.com.
Our CDU Wellbeing Support Line is open 24/7 to offer support during the survey period. Call 1300 933 393.
Students can book an appointment with a CDU counsellor by visiting this webpage.
For staff who find these results distressing, we encourage you to access support. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to all staff and their families for up to 3 free sessions. To access ASSURE EAP Services, make an appointment by calling 1800 808 374.
Other Support Services