UTS has joined a nationwide campaign to raise awareness that sexual assault and all forms of harassment are unacceptable. Launched by peak body Universities Australia, Respect. Now. Always also aims to provide clear pathways of support for those who need it.
UTS Counsellor Fiona Robertson welcomes the move. “Sexual assault is a crime and student concerns must be discussed and managed respectfully. It’s great that universities across the country are addressing it proactively.”
Director of UTS’s Equity and Diversity Unit (E&DU) Tracie Conroy agrees. She believes the campaign not only complements but will shine a brighter light on the initiatives and support services UTS has already established.
“Applying a national gaze can only be positive,” she says. “Any campaign that encourages people to report problems and seek out UTS’s support services is fantastic.”
One of UTS’s key initiatives is the SHOUTS awareness-raising campaign. SHOUTS, which stands for Sex-based Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying Out of UTS, blitzes the campus at the start of every session, sending a crystal clear message that harassment of any form will not be tolerated.
In 2013, largely in response to the introduction of a large, new 720-bed student residence, Directors of UTS’s Student Services Unit and E&DU put their heads together to develop a program that would instill the residence with a culture of safety and respect. “As soon as the new residence was planned, the university took a proactive approach to support residents and staff to create a positive culture,” explains Conroy.
With the enthusiastic support of UTS Housing, they started by designing a two-day Sex and Ethics Training Program for Residential Networkers living in UTS residences. “Residential Networkers are students working within our residences. Other students seek them out for assistance, so we wanted them to be knowledgeable and well-supported,” explains Robertson.
The program covers how to manage the issue of consent, how to manage non-verbal and verbal communication; it also explores the different cultural implications around sex, and how sexual assault or sexual harassment is defined in Australia.
“Elements of the program are also being integrated into the UTS Housing application process so UTS is upfront about what our values are and how we expect students to behave,” says Robertson.
“Most recently, we’ve started to deliver an Active and Ethical Bystander session to broader cohorts of students. This training is about giving students the confidence and skills to assess for safety and if appropriate speak up or act when they see or hear something of concern.”
The Respect. Now. Always campaign precedes the Australian release of the US film The Hunting Ground which explores the prevalence of sexual assault in American universities. The film will be screened at UTS in May and will be followed by a panel discussion that considers the issues in an Australian context.
The final aspect of the campaign is the Strengthening Australian University Responses to Sexual Assault and Harassment Project, run out of the Australian Human Rights Centre at UNSW. Starting with a nationwide student survey, the results will inform a set of guidelines for institutional responses to sexual assault and harassment in Australian universities.
Further information about dealing with sexual harassment or assault, and emergency contacts, can be found at uts.ac/1Nc2nWS
We would encourage you to use the UTS Counselling service if you are seeking support: 9514 1177. If you need help in an emergency, call 000.