The additional service will ensure strong specialist support is available to student survivors in the months immediately following the August 1 release of a university-commissioned report on sexual assault and sexual harassment in university student communities.
The support line is being established by Australia’s 39 universities as a complement to the phone and face-to-face counselling services that already operate on campuses.
“We have heard the calls of survivors of sexual assault and student advocates about the importance of having a crisis support line in place during this time,” said Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson.
“We have listened and we have acted on their calls.”
The support line will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It will be run by specialist trauma counselling service Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia from 31 July to 30 November.
“We expect this report to be challenging – particularly for the survivors of sexual assault. We are also acutely aware that heightened media discussion may also trigger past trauma. We wanted to ensure that all students know that specialist support is only a phone call away,” Ms Robinson said.
“Universities have led on this issue by asking the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct the student survey. The results will ensure we have the evidence base we need to guide how we prevent and address sexual harassment and sexual assault. We’re now being proactive in preparing for the release of the survey results by ensuring that students have access to additional counselling and support.”
RDVSA has decades of experience in providing support in the area of sexual assault, family and domestic violence trauma.
“Universities Australia is concerned to ensure anyone who has experienced any form of sexual violence in the university community has access to all that they need in their recovery,” said the CEO of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, Karen Willis.
“Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia is proud to be part of the suite of services and support Universities Australia is putting into place.”
Sexual assault survivor advocate Nina Funnell said the announcement shows that “Universities Australia have listened to students and survivors, and should be congratulated”.
“This is a world class service and universities have shown that they are clearly prioritising the wellbeing, safety and recovery of survivors. There is a real need for this service, and it is a really important step in universities’ commitment on this issue. For some survivors, it could make all the difference.”
Individual university support services will continue to operate before, during and after the period that the national support line is in operation.
Further information about Respect. Now. Always and the national support line is available here.