Trigger warning: The content discussed in this article may be distressing to some. Reader discretion is advised.
Over the Labour Day long weekend a postgraduate student was sexually assaulted near the ANU campus. The student, a young woman, was assaulted on Friday night near Barry Drive. That any student should have to experience assault, and be made to feel unsafe, is categorically unacceptable. The incident occurred close to ANU grounds, a space in which all students should feel safe and at ease.
Unfortunately this is an ongoing issue, with several students having experienced sexual assault both on and off campus this year. What is of further concern, is that these incidents represent the assaults known to us – with underreporting being highly likely. Recent research by ANU student Nikki Sloan has revealed that many students feel unsafe on campus. The research revealed that for women, feeling unsafe and fearful on campus is widespread, particularly when compared to men. When considering safety, we must acknowledge members of the queer community and international students are often the recipients of harassment and discrimination.
Having spoken to the student who was assaulted, I am overwhelmed by her courage and resilience. The student has done everything she can to report the incident, both to Police and ANU Security, and to alert other students of the potential danger through posting on ANU Stalkerspace.
I also want to acknowledge and thank the members of the ANU community that offered support to the student on ANU Stalkerspace. Stalkerspace does not always provide a safe and supportive environment for students, especially students who have experienced sexual assault. It is heartening to see that the comments were overwhelmingly supportive. It is essential that as a community, we work to make people feel safe both online and on campus. This means being an active bystander and stepping in to help and support other people in the ANU community – whether this be on the street, in the classroom, or online. We must act both individually and collectively to address this issue.
The ANU has undertaken many initiatives to make the University a safe space, such as through lighting changes, installing further CCTV, Unisafe patrols and buses. While these are improvements, we must acknowledge that assault occurs in many forms and sadly students, both on and off campus, experience assault. The purpose of this statement is to highlight another incident of assault on campus, and to make clear that any incident of assault and harassment is unacceptable.
As a community we must acknowledge all those individuals who have been assaulted and show our support. We all need to be active community members to ensure that our campus is safe for everyone. Please take the time to support your fellow students by being an active bystander. Being an active bystander means being aware and responsive to the people around you, being informed about what you can do to help and support others, and offering your help and support to people in need. I also encourage you to discuss these issues with your friends and family, in order to reflect on the situation and to consider what changes are needed to ensure safety on campus and in the community. Please forward any ideas regarding safety on campus, or in the community, to PARSA: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Postgraduate and Research Students’ Association (PARSA)
If you are in immediate danger, or see someone who you believe to be in danger, contact the Police on 000. You can also contact ANU Security (02) 6125 2249 if you are on campus.
If you have experienced sexual abuse (including harassment, assault or rape) either recently or in the past, you can contact the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre for immediate assistance and support. This is a free service that every member of the public can access: (02) 6247 2525.
The ANU also has counselling services available for ongoing support. Other contact information and support can be found on the ANU Sexual Assault Support page.