Nina Dillon Britton and Jessica Syed
We write to you at a pivotal time regarding tangible progress relating to sexual assault and harassment on campus. The results of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) national survey into sexual violence in Australian universities was released last week. Though its results were shocking, with more than half of students experiencing such violence in 2016, they were not surprising. In particular, they were not suprising for survivors who have been adamant about their experiences for years – experiences which Universities did not take seriously and in, in spite of this report, experiences that universities will still not take seriously.
It’s important to remember USyd’s track record when an event like this puts its reputation in the limelight. Hastily condemning St Paul’s College after a sexist Facebook post goes viral, absolutely committing to the recommendations put forward in the AHRC report, et cetera.
Then, behind our backs, deploying campus security to remove posters advertising the August 2nd anti-sexual violence rally, refusing to take on board the advice given by student representatives and survivors during consultative committees, not instating a sexual-assault specific counsellor within CAPS, not publicising its own helpline for complaints. It’s not good enough.
What we’re saying to you is: don’t let your guard down, and don’t let USyd ride this PR wave. If you identify as a woman or non-binary person, join the USyd Wom*n’s Collective on Facebook and help continue to build the campaign. Call out rape culture if you spot it in your tutes or amongst your friends. Keep an eye out for rallies and events; take a stand.
Some good news: the National University Support Line is now active 24/7 until November 30; if you need to speak to a trauma-specialist counsellor, the number is 1800 572 224.
We would like to use this space this week to congratulate the work of 2016 Wom*n’s officer Anna Hush, and her 2017 counterparts, Imogen Grant and Katie Thorburn who in tandem with each other continue to do inspiring and important work in the face of a system which won’t budge. It is only through the tireless work of activists like them – such as the organisation of the mass multi-university protest that happened on Wednesday – that we will see change.
If you have experienced sexual assault or harassment, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.