At the ANU, reports of sexual misconduct in 2021 more than tripled compared to the year prior. This news comes to light as the University has released a Sexual Misconduct Reports and Disclosures Report for the first time, drawing from reports made to its Registrar Office and an online disclosures form.
Students have increasingly made formal reports to the University Registrar’s Office, from four in 2019, to nine in 2020, up to 31 in 2021. On average, these reports were finalised within 27 working days.
In cases where misconduct was found to occur, ten percent of offenders received conditions on their enrolment, thirty-eight percent were suspended or denied access to the University for a specified period of time, and fifty-two percent were excluded entirely, meaning that they cease to be a student.
In addition to increases in official reports of sexual misconduct, there has been an uptick in informal disclosures over time, from survivors, supporters of survivors, witnesses and staff. Between October 2019 to September 2020, 250 disclosures were made, which jumped to 366 disclosures in the period October 2020 to September 2021.
A majority of the incidents disclosed impacted undergraduate students, which in October 2020 to September 2021 made up 81.1 percent of total disclosures. Furthermore, the majority of people impacted by incidents of SASH were living on campus, at 70.3 percent in October 2020 to September 2021.
The report also found that the majority of survivors were female and the majority of perpetrators were male undergraduate students. In 2020-2021, 76.2 percent of people impacted by incidents were female, 16.2 percent male, 3.2 percent non-binary, 0.5 percent gender non-conforming and 3.8 percent preferred not to disclose.
The data shows that while many incidents, around one-third of the total, were disclosed within 24 hours to one week after occurring, another third were within one to three months, and a final third between one to three years afterwards.
A range of behaviours were disclosed in the report, which, in 2020-2021, included sexual harassment (55.3 percent), sexual assault (43.5 percent), domestic and family violence (1.2 percent), and bullying and harassment (0 percent).
The University “would like to thank survivors for coming forward” and aims for the report to be survivor-centric and suggests the report “shows more and more people are feeling comfortable about coming forward.”
An ANU spokesperson clarified that the report “is not about prevalence” but rather is “support information that shows our commitment to transparency and accountability” which they hope to continue with annual reports in the future. Likewise, the University spokesperson highlighted the ANU’s ongoing commitment to prevention and support of students in relation to incidents of sexual assault and harassment.
Both the ANUSA Women’s Officer, Avan Daruwalla, and ANUSA President, Christian Flynn, who were consulted in the making of the report, welcomed it as a step in the direction “toward increased institutional accountability and transparency.”
However, Daruwalla noted that the report was “a promised commitment in 2018 following the Nous Review’s recommendation(s)” and that “we did not see this in 2018, 2019, 2020 or 2021… the university is four years behind on not only this promise but numerous other commitments to survivors,” which Flynn concurred.
While the President praised the report’s breadth and depth, both he and the Women’s Officer urged for the next annual report to clarify data on punitive action, such as exactly how many students have been excluded from the University.
Additionally, Daruwalla remarked that ANU’s attempts to centre survivors is undermined by highlighting their successes in pursuing improved campus safety. Flynn added that there was little acknowledgement of the work of survivors and the Women’s Department in the report, either.
Flynn pointed out that “disclosure processes at the ANU are still in need of improvement and further work” particularly as they so often involve students being continually referred on to different staff, creating “unnecessary re-traumatising.”
Instead, Flynn suggests the University needs to create “clear, highly-publicised pathways of disclosure and reporting” and “regularly publish what potential outcomes can result from a process of a disclosure and a report.” The Women’s Officer hopes the online disclosure form will be updated to be more “trauma-informed.”
Further data on incidents of sexual assault and harassment in universities will be released in the upcoming National Student Safety Survey, with more of a focus on prevalence.
If this content has triggered any concern, distress or impacted on your wellbeing, ANU provides a number of services to support student health and wellbeing including:
Student Safety and Wellbeing
website: Health, safety & wellbeing – ANU
website: ANU Counselling – ANU
The ANU Wellbeing and Support Line available 24/7
phone: 1300 05 0327 SMS: 0488 884 17
There are also a number of services in community that can be accessed after hours including:
ACT Access Mental Health is a 24-hour mental health emergency access and support service.
Phone: 1800 629 354 or 6205 1065
1800 RESPECT is the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 1800 RESPECT provides phone or online support for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, sexual assault, domestic or family violence.
1800 RESPECT is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Phone: 1800 737 732
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Crisis Line
(02) 6247 2525
ANU Women’s Department
ANU Queer* Department