student advocates at the Women's Dept speak out

New Documentary Highlights International Student Sexual Assault And Suggests That They Are ‘Soft Targets’

Content Warning: Sexual Assault and Harassment (including description), Institutional Betrayal,

A new documentary released by Al Jazeera sheds light on how damaging campus sexual assault is for international students studying in Australia.

In the documentary, an ANU student tells of how she was sexually assaulted as a first year campus resident.

One night, her perpetrator followed her back to her room, forced his way into the room, and raped her.

“I got pushed on the bed and I got raped,” the student told Al Jazeera. “He kept saying, ‘I’ll get what I want’”.

“I couldn’t move my hands. I could only scream.”

When the ANU student went to the police about the incident, she didn’t find the interaction too helpful:

“The policewoman, I think she was trying to comfort me. She said ‘Don’t worry it’s definitely not your fault, but next time just be careful.”

“What’s next time?” The student wondered. “And what do you mean be careful?”  

The alleged perpetrator was originally from Canberra.

The documentary was released on Al Jazeera’s 101 East program, a weekly current affairs broadcast about the Asia Pacific.

It’s the culmination of a half-year investigation into sexual assault across Australian universities: the half-hour piece includes testimony from students at other tertiary institutions.

“Women often blame themselves when it comes to unwanted sexual encounters, but international students even more so,” said Aela Callan, one of the piece’s reporters.

“They are afraid of their visas being taken away and being sent home, so they don’t speak up. On top of that, for cultural reasons, they fear their families may also shun them.”

An ANU spokesperson told Woroni that the university was deeply saddened to hear of the ANU students’ assault.

“Harassment, sexual assault and violent behaviour of any kind is unacceptable and has no place on campus, and we have a strong commitment to providing a safe and respectful environment for all students, staff and visitors,” the spokesperson said.

He said that ANU first years must now undertake the mandatory ‘Consent Matters’ module, and that the university has partnered with the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre to provide specialist counselling services.

In the Australian Human Rights Commission survey on sexual assault and harassment released last year, it was detailed that one in every five assaults were against international students.

“They’re considered to be soft targets,” activist Alison Coelho says on the documentary, “and they’re considered to be soft targets because they don’t know where to seek help.”

There are currently over 500,000 international students studying in Australia — it is the country’s third largest export, valued at over $32 billion a year.

You can watch the documentary here. 

 

Here is a list of support services for those wanting to seek help:

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Crisis Line

(02) 6247 2525

This is an over the phone counselling service. It is open from 7am to 11pm, seven days a week. You can also use this number for counselling related inquiries or to book face-to-face appointments with Canberra Rape Crisis Centre. All services are free of charge.

ANU Counselling

(02) 6125 2442

This is the phone number to book an appointment with ANU Counselling. You can book a standard appointment (50 mins) anytime. To book an on the day appointment for urgent help (25 mins) call at 9am or go into the Counselling Centre just before 9am, as these appointments are first in best dressed. You can receive six free sessions per semester.

1800 RESPECT

1800 737 732

This is over the phone counselling and it is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can also refer you to local services. It is free of charge. 1800 RESPECT has a triage system, so the first person you speak to is not a counsellor. We recommend that you request to be put through to a counsellor straight away.

ANU Women’s Department

Contact the Women’s Officer, Laura Perkov:

  • sa.womens@anu.edu.au

The Women’s Department is part of ANUSA, and it advocates for and supports all ANU Women and non-binary students. As Women’s Officer, Laura can provide pastoral care, referrals to local support services, and give information about options for reporting within ANU and the support ANU can offer.

ANU Queer* Department

Contact the Queer* Officer, Matthew Mottola:

  • sa.queer@anu.edu.au

The Queer* Department is part of ANUSA, and it advocates for and supports all Queer* identifying students. Matthew can provide pastoral care, referrals to local support services, and give information about options for reporting within ANU and the support ANU can offer.

ANU International Students Department

Contact the International Students Department President, Mina Kim:

The International Students Department advocates for and supports all international students. Mina can provide support, referrals to local support services, and give information about options for reporting within ANU and the support ANU can offer.