Today, the Australian Human Rights Commission has released the findings of a national survey commissioned by Universities Australia to provide a greater understanding of the scale of sexual assault and harassment experienced by university students and to inform strategies for prevention and support for survivors.
All 39 Australian universities, including the University of Newcastle (UON), participated in the project, which involved a survey of a representative sample of students’ experiences and an open call for submissions.
The release of the findings, or the associated media coverage, may cause challenges for some survivors of sexual assault. Media portrayals or discussions within the university about sexual violence may evoke reactions such as intrusive memories, anxiety, feelings of sadness or irritability.
If this is the case for you, there are a number of options available to you. As a student at UON you can talk to Counsellor or UON Campus Care, who are able to provide you with advice, connect you with specialised support and help you through the reporting process if you choose.
For some people, the discussions about the findings of the survey may lead them to reflect on past experiences of sexual assault or harassment and decide to come forward to make a report.
The UON website provides further resources and advice on how to make a report to the university or police, where you can go to get help, information about sexual assault and how to support someone who discloses sexual based assault or harassment.
Below are some tips on how to look after yourself if you are feeling distressed:
- Let people close to you know what is going on for you. This will allow them to be better able to support you.
- You may like to minimise contact with media sources for a short time. In particular, try to avoid reading the comments sections of online news stories or social media, as these can be a forum for extreme reactions both for and against allegations of sexual assault.
- Find comfort in talking to someone you trust about your feelings or reaction. You could talk to a counsellor or psychologist, campus care, someone close to you, or a specialist helpline such as NSW Rape Crisis (1800 424 017).
- Make space for the feelings that come up, whatever they may be. Be aware of any ‘shoulds’ about your feelings, for example, “I should be over this already”, “I shouldn’t be upset about this”. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel, and no set timeframe for recovery from a trauma. Be gentle with yourself.
- You may like to express yourself by writing about your feelings in a journal, artwork, listening to music, singing or any other creative outlet you enjoy.
This information is also relevant for people who are supporting someone who experienced a sexual-based assault (e.g. partner, friend, family member, etc).