Released today, the Guidelines for university responses to reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment, assist universities to respond to both disclosures and formal reports in a way that puts student safety and wellbeing at the centre of a university’s response.
Universities Australia developed the guidelines in close consultation with violence prevention and response experts, students and advocates.
They form part of the UA 10-point Action Plan and the Respect. Now. Always. initiative, which included a university-funded national student survey.
Universities Australia’s Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said university leaders, students and staff are united in their resolve to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment and to support those who have experienced these behaviours.
“We want every student to be supported through their trauma and recovery — and know that their safety and wellbeing will be at the centre of their university’s response,” she said.
“Advocates and experts have been integral to this work. Without them, this work would not have been possible and we thank them for their crucial input.”
Ms Jackson noted the guidelines are just one part of a comprehensive program of sector-wide action — and build on many years of work by frontline staff, students and university leadership.
“These guidelines complement other major initiatives developed by the university sector as a whole and the hundreds of initiatives by individual universities over the past year alone.”
“Every student should feel — and be — safe, both on campus and in the wider community.”
Putting the needs of the person who has experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment at the centre means that universities should:
- consider creating a standalone policy to address sexual assault and sexual harassment;
- ensure the majority of staff with student-facing roles have the skills to respond to disclosures and reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment with compassion and care;
- consider providing a specialist-trained single point of contact for students making reports to ensure processes are compassionate, consistent and robust;
- minimise the number of times a student needs to recount a traumatic experience;
- streamline arrangements for academic special consideration;
- consider a data collection mechanism that captures de-identified disclosures and formal reports;
- consult with stakeholders, including students, in the development of any relevant policy;
- offer multiple ways to make a formal report, including through online reporting tools and safety apps;
- clearly communicate the university’s formal reporting process and misconduct procedures, including timeframes;
- communicate to students the option to report the incident to police, and respect their decision;
- offer an interpreter for students who prefer to provide information in their native language; and
- engage with colleges and residential halls — including those that are managed independently of the university — to ensure consistency in responses, reporting and investigation approaches.
“Many of these actions and policies are ones that universities already have in place or are actively considering. These guidelines are not intended to replace institutional approaches to dealing with these unacceptable behaviours, but rather provide further advice,” Ms Jackson said.
The guidelines were developed with input from Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, student leadership organisations, advocates, Professor Margaret Otlowski, the Society of University Lawyers, Dr Lisa Warren from Code Black Threat Management, Professor Andrea Durbach, university student services staff and Sparke Helmore Lawyers.