It was discovered last week that University of Sydney’s two main support hotlines for student survivors of sexual assault have not been working. The discovery was made after a person seeking support was unable to make contact.
Those who called the Student Liaison Officer hotline were given a message that the hotline was “temporarily out of service”. In addition to this, the 1800 SYDHLP hotline has been automatically re-routing callers to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre during business hours instead of being answered by staff.
While the hotlines have now been fixed, it’s not clear how long they were down for or how many students who attempted to make contact and were left abandoned.
Stress and desolation are common feelings for students who are seeking support after a traumatic sexual experience. By creating inoperative hotlines USyd is exacerbating survivors’ trauma.
This is an impact that can last a lifetime. The first response that a survivor of sexual assault receives often dictates how they will navigate their recovery. If that response happens to be white noise on the other end of the phone line, it may discourage the student from seeking any help altogether. Without help, student survivors are much more vulnerable to mental illness. How will students suffering from trauma reach their academic potential, attain their degrees, and regain a sense of trust in their everyday interactions?
It is clear that USyd lacks a coordinated and proactive response to sexual assault which is enabling the problem to persist.
Even when the University does endeavor to provide support, these services are drastically understaffed, underfunded and lack counselling staff with trauma specialist training.
USyd has millions upon millions to spend on new buildings, yet fails to sufficiently resource support services. The University has twisted priorities that ultimately leave survivors in the lurch.
This comes off the back of Universities Australia abolishing the National Sexual Assault University Hotline which was run by Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia. Last year the AHRC ‘Change the Course’ report found that 6.9% of university students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016.
If you have any concerns about University of Sydney support services please email me at email@example.com. To get involved in the campaign against sexual assault, contact the Women’s Officers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are experiencing any academic, personal or legal issues and wish to seek the advice of an SRC caseworker or solicitor, contact us at 9660 5222 or email@example.com.