Sexual Assault Allegations at Unilodge raise concerns about residential halls’ response to SASH disclosures

CW: Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment, Institutional Betrayal
UniLodge buildings on Childer Street

Allegations of sexual assault and rape against a member of the Unilodge community have come out in the last few weeks. This has lead to questions about the handling of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment (SASH) allegations by residential halls. This incident follows the 2018 Nous Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at the ANU, which categorised Unilodge’s response to SASH as ‘needs development’. The Nous report also found that staff at Unilodge are not accessible and visible and that student leaders are heavily relied upon when SASH disclosures and allegations are made.

Woroni was shown emails from parties involved in this situation, which suggest that the student making the allegations believed that a formal complaint had been made during in-person discussions with Unilodge management.The complainant understood that the Residential Life Manager would be filling out the official SASH disclosure, while Lodge’s emails suggest that no formal complaint was made, limiting them from taking further action.

The emails indicate that Unilodge was made aware of the allegations in early March, while a follow up email sent on the 11th of March outlined the actions available to the complainant. These actions included making a formal complaint through the hall or through ANU disciplinary measures. These emails were followed by further communication between the complainant and management, throughout which the complainant was under the impression the complaint had been made, however no formal complaint eventuated.

An email sent on June 3 outlined the institutional betrayal felt by the survivor from the actions of the Unilodge management. The complainant described that they felt management did not believe them or the allegations and that they were not taking into account the risk of an alleged perpetrator still living at Lodge and being active in the community. 

The alleged perpetrator in question is a member of the Unilodge ResCom. After a perceived lack of action from UniLodge, another member of rescom moved a motion of no confidence to remove the alleged perpetrator. The motion failed and select members of ResCom told Woroni that they received a ‘passive-aggressive’ message from another member of the group. This message implied that they should not have brought the allegations to the meeting and that management was handling the situation appropriately. The alleged perpetrator temporarily stepped down from their role on June 7, due to the investigations, and provided no comment for this article when contacted.

In a bid to force Unilodge to take action, a petition was posted on change.org by a friend of the student who made the initial allegations. The petition called for the removal of this individual from their position and that these actions needed to be accompanied by consequences. The petition was closed on June 10, with the creator citing “threats made by the university” of expulsion for making the petition. The creator made clear that they would be pursuing justice through both the ANU and the legal system. Woroni has also been informed that several other disclosures have been made against the individual since the petition was published.

An ANU spokesperson clarified that the university had acted in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Rules, and that the student had just been made aware of potential consequences of non-compliance. 

“Providing comprehensive advice in this respect at point of instruction should not be construed as any indication or threat of an outcome. Any action also requires due process, including a separate decision maker from the reporting party, and is subject to appeals procedures. In this case, the University is satisfied that the reasonable direction was followed” the ANU spokesperson outlined.

In response to the allegations, an ANU Spokesperson said that “sexual assault and sexual harassment are never okay. No one should be treated this way, and these behaviours go against our community’s values. ANU takes disclosures and formal reports of sexual misconduct seriously.

 If survivors disclose incidents of these unacceptable behaviours they are heard and they are supported, including being provided information on how to make a formal report. If the University receives formal reports of these unacceptable behaviours, the University ensures due process for all parties, parties are supported, reports are investigated and appropriate action is taken.”

Overall, the situation suggests the continued failure of ANU’s sexual assault policies to support survivors. Despite continued contact between Unilodge Management and the survivor, there have been clear issues in how the options for reporting were presented and communicated. 

Unilodge was contacted for comment but did not respond.

 

Grace Sixsmith is a former resident of Lena Karmel Lodge

 

Disclaimer: This article has been updated for clarity and to add further details.