MEMORANDUM TO STAFF AND STUDENTS
Office of the Vice Chancellor and President
12.30PM, 23 March 2022
Content warning: This memorandum discusses sexual harassment and sexual assault. A range of support services are listed below.
I write to inform you of Bond University’s results from the 2021 National Student Safety Survey.
Australian universities undertook a student safety survey over several weeks during the final semester of 2021. The survey was conducted independently by the Social Research Centre in Canberra after being commissioned by Universities Australia, of which Bond is a member.
The national survey collected anonymous data on the scale and nature of university student experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault. A national report on the survey findings will be released today by Universities Australia at www.nsss.edu.au.
Commentary on the national survey results will be well covered by others, with some experts having already predicted a rise in reported incidents due to increased awareness over the past five years following action taken within the higher education sector as a result of the 2016 Respect.Now.Always. survey. The impact of campus closures due to long Covid lockdowns in other states last year has also been referenced.
While recognising the comments associated with the release of the national report and acknowledging that we need to do more to tackle and address this most serious issue, I will focus on Bond’s results.
Bond University was one of only two universities to offer the survey to every student aged 18 and older. At Bond, 452 students responded to the survey. Within these responses:
- 113 students (25% of the 452 respondents) experienced sexual harassment since starting university, and 93 experienced sexual harassment in the past 12 months.
- 59 students (13.2% of the 452 respondents) experienced sexual assault since starting university, and 42 experienced sexual assault in the past 12 months.
- A higher proportion of women experienced incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault than men. Responses from individuals in the differently-described gender category were too few in sampling number to make a reliable inference from the data.
The results also provide some insights into the incidents.
3.6% of the students who experienced sexual harassment made a formal complaint to Bond, though a higher number of students who experienced sexual harassment (19.6%) sought support or assistance from the University. The most common reason given by those who did not seek support or assistance from within the University was ‘I did not think I needed help’ (55.2%).
Knowledge within the student community of University support and reporting channels is not as high as we would like, with 39% of all respondents saying they ’knew nothing’ or ‘very little’ about where to go to make a complaint about sexual harassment, and 34.8% saying they ’knew nothing’ or ‘very little’ about where to seek support or assistance. In relation to sexual assault, these figures were similar at 40.6% and 33.5% respectively.
Of those Bond students who reported sexual harassment ‘in an Australian university context’, 42% of cases occurred within general campus area locations, 26.7% in clubs and societies, events and spaces, and 17.5% in student accommodation and residences. The students who experienced sexual harassment knew some or all of the perpetrators in 71.7% of cases.
Equivalent observations for reported incidents of sexual assault at Bond from the survey, concerning the location of the incident and the perpetrator, are not available due to the relevant sample sizes being too small.
Since the last national survey conducted in 2016, Bond has undertaken education campaigns, increased student support services, overhauled reporting mechanisms, and reviewed and revised its policies.
Despite our efforts, these data show that we have not made as much progress as we thought we had on reducing incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
This context makes the results of this survey all the more shocking. I thank all the students who took part in the survey, particularly those who shared their painful experiences.
The University is deeply sorry to every person who has experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault. I personally express my sorrow and apologise to those victim-survivors who have endured so much.
We will take the information from these results, learn from it, and develop strategies to change behaviour, encourage survivors to report incidents and access support, and target unacceptable behaviour such that perpetrators cannot hide.
In immediate response and with urgency, Bond University will:
- Establish a taskforce to oversee an inquiry, review and reform. The membership will include a strong representation from students as it is their views that must be heard loudest. The taskforce will be charged with making recommendations and will report directly to myself.
- Immediately review the form and content of our confidential support, digital access, and reporting services, to ensure that our processes are simple to follow and easy to access.
- Provide additional specialised training to Residential Fellows, security officers and front-line staff for next semester.
The taskforce will be formed within days, and one of its first actions will be to seek views, input and ideas from our students. The objective of this will be to create a safe environment for all students in which they feel secure to speak up and seek help.
I remain steadfast in reiterating that the University is committed to providing all students with support that prioritises their safety and wellbeing at every step.
Our reforms must lead to impactful change, and with haste.
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