Two years ago, UTS joined other Australian universities to launch the Respect.Now.Always. campaign.
As part of this, UTS and the university sector commissioned a report into the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment amongst Australian university students.
Wednesday 1 August 2018 marks the one-year anniversary of the release of this report, which was a way of better understanding – from students themselves – how often and in what circumstances sexual assault and harassment affects Australian university students.
The survey highlighted an unacceptable number of sexual violence and sexual harassment incidents within the UTS community.
Since the release of the results, UTS has increased the ongoing dialogue with students relating to sexual assault and harassment initiatives. In particular through:
- Student representation on the UTS Prevention of Sexual Assault and Harassment Working Group. The group is chaired by the UTS Provost and also includes representatives from residential college management, student services (including counselling services), campus security, HR, legal, policy and communications
- The establishment of the Student Consultative Group with a diverse representation of students. This group feeds into the Prevention of Sexual Assault and Harassment Working Group
- A student-driven, interactive campaign (Wanna spoon? Ask first!) with activations at ODay, on-campus music concerts and Night Owl dinners, where a free ice-cream stall provided an informal, interpersonal and non-threatening setting to discuss sex, consent, bystander behaviours, reporting and other related topics
- Using the expertise within our Design Innovation Research Centre to examine student-informed ways of improving the experience of reporting incidents of sexual assault and harassment and accessing support.
Consultation with students has helped shape a number of initiatives at UTS that fall broadly into the following three categories.
- Increased education and conversation about sexual violence, healthy relationships and support/emergency services through:
- Sex and Ethics training for all UTS Housing Residential Networkers
- Face-to-face training each session for all ActivateUTS student club executives for help identifying, preventing, reporting and responding to sexual assault and harassment
- Ethical Bystander training for all UTS Peer Networkers
- Mandatory Consent Matters training for all students and staff, including face-to-face information sessions
- An ongoing calendar of internally and externally created student-focused communications regarding topics such as sexual consent and bystander behaviours
- An increased conversation about healthy relationships in student onboarding, through communications, activations, orientation activities and Consent Matters support
- Updated onboarding resources for new staff, promoting a zero-tolerance culture around sexual assault and harassment and reporting responsibilities
- An addition to the UTS accommodation application form which asks prospective students how they could contribute to a safe, supportive and positive environment
- Production of an ActivateUTS emergency contact card for students attending off-site events
- Emergency numbers included on the reverse of newly-issued ID cards.
- Review and improvement of UTS processes and policies, including:
- The amendment of UTS’s student rules to specifically include sexual assault, indecent assault and sexual harassment as types of misconduct, and linking these specific behaviours to possible penalties including expulsion and rescission of academic awards conferred by UTS
- An audit of all online information pertaining to sexual assault and harassment reporting and support services within the UTS web environment, followed by improvements
- A planned assessment of existing contractual arrangements with external organisations that receive UTS students (internships, industry placements etc.)
- Consultation with faculty staff to create an Academic Staff Engagement Strategy and identify opportunities to facilitate the transparent management of reporting incidents.
- Ensuring reasonable, accessible and flexible support for students who have been affected by sexual violence through:
- Introducing an online portal for those who wish to make a disclosure about sexual harassment or sexual assault but prefer not to do so in person, on campus
- A formal MOU with Relationships Australia NSW to allow students to self-select a counsellor through a separate online service that lists UTS counsellors and more than 100 other professionals
- Increasing the number of UTS counsellors trained in responding to trauma to the equivalent of 11 full-time positions, including a social worker with a background in sexual health
- A specialist UTS trauma-informed 1800 telephone support service
- The introduction of mandatory online reporting for all staff who receive a disclosure or are aware of an incident of sexual violence involving a student
- The rollout of Epigeum’s Responding to Disclosures training to identified staff and students later in 2018
- An evening counselling service, planned for later in 2018.
If at any point you, or someone around you, needs help, don’t hesitate to contact any free community or UTS support service.