Australia publishes report on campus sexual assault

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Canberra, Aug 1 (IANS) More than half of Australia’s college students have experienced sexual harassment at least once, according to a report issued by the country’s Human Rights Commission on Tuesday.

In 2016, as much as 51 per cent of university students were sexually harassed, Efe news report based on 30,000 interviews said.

Of these, 21 per cent were harassed in a “university setting”, which includes the campus, activities organised on or off campus, and in professional settings within universities.

The report also said that some 2,100 students, 6.9 per cent of the total surveyed, suffered sexual assault at least once in 2015 or 2016.

“Today, for the first time, we have statistically significant national data on the prevalence and nature of this problem at Australia’s universities,” said Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

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The study defined harassment as any “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature”, the most frequent cases being staring or leering (14 percent) and suggestive comments or jokes (11 per cent).

The report also pointed out that transgender and gender-diverse students were more vulnerable to attacks than heterosexuals, just as women are more vulnerable than men.

In the case of postgraduate students, harassment or aggressions were mostly committed by their teachers or tutors, it added.

The commission highlighted the need to improve institutional response to complaints and involve independent bodies in reviewing complaints.

Universities Australia, a organisation representing the country’s university sector, pledged to adopt a 10-point plan, including the creation of a 24-hour support line operated by the public service against rape and domestic violence.

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