Even as university students enjoyed their break between semesters, news stories about sexism and sexual assault on university campuses did not stop breaking. Investigation by Honi Soit revealed that in the past five years, up to 1700 students may have experienced sexual assault, estimated from the University’s own data. Five students at ANU have recently been expelled for sharing photos of women’s breasts online without consent, as reported by ANU student newspaper Woroni. Although these seemingly endless stories of sexual assault and harassment reveal the dark underbelly of campus life, it is also heartening to see brave students sharing their stories, as well as tireless activists campaigning for better support, and student media leading reporting on the issue.
The National Union of Students launched the ‘Support Student Safety, Stop the War on Women’ campaign during the break, with a rally at UTS and USyd after the annual NOWSA women’s conference. This campaign demands that universities implement zero tolerance policies towards sexual violence, roll out the national sexual assault survey developed by the Human Rights Commission without delay, and do more to support survivors of violence on campus.
This semester, the Wom*n’s Collective will continue to fight for survivors of sexual violence. Currently less than 1% of survivors report their experiences to the university: we want to see better reporting procedures put in place, so that students feel safe to come forward. We want better education for students and staff, to create a community with a greater understanding of consent and greater respect for women. Sexual assault on campus will not stop until the university listens to the voices of students and survivors.
This semester, Wom*n’s Collective meetings will be held on Mondays at 1pm in the Wom*n’s Room in Manning House. Women and non-binary students are welcome to come along to meetings!