I don’t know if I’m a ‘survivor’. To be honest, I’m still confused about what’s considered sexual assault and what’s just poor communication. I have had a lot of blurry sexual experiences, though, with too much alcohol or uncertainty involved for me to feel capable of ending the situations. But I used to always blame myself for these situations – after all, I’m the one who chose to drink that much, I’m the one who led him on, I’m the one who said it was okay for him to walk me home. While this sounds like victim blaming, it was more empowering for me to think that I could have made different decisions. It felt better knowing that I could have avoided these situations rather than feeling that there was nothing I did to end up there – and that if a similar scenario happened again then there’s nothing I could change to prevent it.
My perception of these experiences has only started to shift over the past year with the changing conversation surrounding sexual assault on campus. Statistics like “1 in 5 women have experienced sexual assault” tell me that it’s more likely than not those experiences weren’t consensual. But I’m not sure that I want to be a ‘survivor’.
I can understand that for some of those who identify as survivors there is power in these statistics; they prove that they’re not alone, that it’s not their fault, that this is the result of a larger, systemic problem of how we discuss consent. But for me, the constant statistics and messaging of just how likely I am to be sexually assaulted is disempowering. It feels like sexual assault is likely to be my fate, if it isn’t already. And that terrifies me. It is the reason I feel disempowered in those blurry situations – if I don’t try to put a stop to the situation then there’s no chance I’ll be ignored, and therefore I won’t become a ‘survivor’, instead it’ll just be another regrettable decision in the morning. But on the other hand, if I am already a ‘survivor’, does that mean I’m not likely to be assaulted in future, because I’m already a statistic?
The problem with assault statistics is that they remove agency, which is the definition of disempowering someone.
But that’s not the point of the movement to end sexual assault on campus. The point is to tell perpetrators that their behaviour won’t be tolerated, not to tell women that regardless of their actions or inactions on a certain night the statistics say their victimhood is likely.
I think it is important that we remain aware of the very real threat of sexual assault on campus and continue to campaign to change the culture that enables perpetrators to not only abuse women but get away with it. But I also think we need to consider the impact the messaging we use is having on survivors or potential survivors. Advocacy campaigns should not further victimise the people they’re advocating for, they should empower them so that when the time comes for it, they know they’re in charge.
Comments Off on Peer-to-Peer Support at ANU Residential Halls
I’m worried – and I need to know if the student body is too.
In 2017 I ran in the ANUSA elections with a clear commitment to safe, sustainable and fair peer support models in ANU residential halls. In my experience they haven’t been any of these things – but I need to know if that was an anomaly or if it’s the norm.
I was elected with a strong majority, so I know I have a mandate to look into this issue – but for the university to be convinced of any real change I need you to share your experiences.
While I was a senior resident at B&G, I’m almost certain that I received more sexual assault disclosures than my male counterparts – and overall I would have contributed more hours and more emotional labour to the job. I was a woman doing more work than the men in my role – and receiving the same pay.
I would avoid being in my room alone because all I could think of was the harrowing stories I’d been told by my residents, friends, and peers while they sat on my bed.
The people running your training call this burn out. It’s not burn out. It’s vicarious trauma, and the university needs to do more to support students in this situation.
Because I was being paid via a scholarship and therefore wasn’t an employee, I couldn’t access an Employee Assistance Program. This is where your workplace covers counselling costs for you. If I needed time off, I had to apply for leave. If I was going to be away from the hall for longer than 48 hours I had to apply for this leave. There are so many structural issues like this one that make peer support at ANU residential halls unsafe, unfair and unsustainable. I’ve spent the last six months talking to people about these issues, but I haven’t spoken to everyone.
There are some questions that I still can’t answer on my own.
Should SRs and RAs be paid as employees if they are doing overnight shifts and some are taking on more hours than others?
Should CC’s be responsible for overseeing and training other students, while they are students themselves?
What kind of structural support do we offer these students, and who can access EAP (employee assistance program) to get free counselling outside of ANU?
Why isn’t anyone talking about vicarious trauma?
What are the benefits and non-negotiable aspects of peer support that we must maintain?
Should SRs get penalty rates for being on call over a long weekend?
My experiences were not all bad. I had incredible residents and a supportive SR team to work with and I am so grateful for having the opportunity to befriend these lovely people. But this issue is a systemic one that is disadvantaging women, and people from linguistically and/or culturally diverse backgrounds – people I believe are often receiving more work than others, but not being remunerated for it.
I need to know if this issue is widespread or localised to some residential halls – and I need to know what the student body wants me to advocate for. Should we have trained mental health nurses on call overnight? Do we need paramedics? I know I would have appreciated both of these when I was 19 years old, dealing with mental health crises and doing CPR on my peers.
Your experiences will help to inform a report that will make recommendations for peer pastoral care models in ANU residential halls in 2019. If you’ve been an SR, CC, RA, Women’s Officer, Men’s Officer, Gender and Sexuality Advocate, Mental Health Advocate – or any other peer support role – please fill out my survey, or get in touch with me to talk about your experiences. I want to hear from you.
Email Tess Masters, ANUSA Vice President: email@example.com
Woroni is committed to standing with survivors of sexual harassment and assault. If you or someone you know have been affected by this piece, please reach out to the support services listed.
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (6247 2525)
CRCC are on campus and available to support you if you have experienced sexual violence, harassment, or anything that has made you feel uncomfortable. You don’t need a medicare card to see them, all appointments are free, and nobody will be told you have spoken to them. You can call CRCC on 6247 2525 between 7am and 11pm.
The ANU Counselling Centre promotes, supports and enhances mental health and wellbeing within the University student community. It is a free, confidential and non-diagnostic service available to all currently enrolled ANU students. No referral or Mental Health Treatment Plan from a General Practitioner is required to attend appointments.
Provides support for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, sexual assault, domestic or family violence, their friends and family, and workers and professionals supporting someone experiencing, or at risk of experiencing sexual assault, domestic or family violence. Call 1800 737 732.
Lifeline (13 11 14)
A national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 13.
ANU Women’s Department
Contact the Women’s Officer, Laura Perkov:
For non-urgent inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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.
Comments Off on ANU and Ramsay Centre: Trading Academic Independence for Cash
ANU loves to brag about its scholarships. Its brochures are plastered with smiling shiny faces of Tuckwell scholarship students reading books on green grass under blue sky, with dust and heavy industrial equipment from the nearby construction site neatly cropped out. But ANU – the thought leader that it is – is changing away from this, as it quietly releases piecemeal information and timidly defends its negotiations with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilization (RCWC) over a divisive new scholarship and degree originally slated for 2019.
Late last year ANU announced it was in negations with the RCWC to create a new Bachelor in Western Civilization for a cohort of 60 students, of which it would provide some 30 students with a $25,000 per annum scholarship. But this group doesn’t exactly have the same appeal as the kind-faced, generous Tuckwells, with their passion for education. No, RCWC is instead staffed by some of the most disliked politicians in Australian history and has repeatedly said it will use the degree to push its ideological beliefs.
RCWC launched in November 2017 thanks to a $3 billion donation left by healthcare-magnate and top Liberal party donor Paul Ramsay. The group aims to get universities to teach a positive interpretation of Western civilization. To achieve this RCWC turned to ANU, promising a fortune to the university if they establish a degree that adheres to the group’s goals.
RCWC chairman and former prime minister John Howard described the degree as “an exercise in the unapologetic exposal of what Western Civilization has brought to mankind over the centuries.” There are three main issues with the degree: firstly, its politically biased approach; secondly, the ambiguity of RCWC’s control over the degree; finally, the involvement of sitting MPs and partisan political figures.
Members of RCWC board and its CEO have repeatedly said that the degree will only address the positive aspects of Western civilization. Board member Tony Abbott said that RCWC is “not merely about Western Civilization but in favour of it.” Even when Howard acknowledged that western civilisation had “its share of moral failures”, he didn’t elaborate. Instead, Howard said people should look to the successes of western civilization, such as the defeat of Nazi Germany. Of course, Howard did not explain why Nazi Germany – a European nation-State influenced by Enlightenment thought, Christianity and Graeco-Roman culture – was not part of the West. Nor have any of the board members mentioned colonisation, fascism, autocracy or imperialism; governmental structures that characterised the West for far longer than modern democracies. RCWC will not address these issues. They are explicitly narrow-minded and have no intention of approaching western civilization with the complexity it requires. Such an approach is not only an insult to students, but also to those affected by the negative aspects of western civilization.
ANU and RCWC have both said they will respect the traditional course approval structures, but this hasn’t stopped RCWC officials from also saying the exact opposite. During negotiations, CEO Simon Haines said “we would not be wanting to hire somebody who is coming in with a long liturgy of what terrible damage western [civilization] had done to the world.” If academic integrity is respected, then a politically motivated third party should not get to have a say in the hiring and firing of staff. A similar stance has also been taken on the syllabus of the 16 new courses in the degree. RCWC said that they will choose the readings or “great texts” for the degree, while also saying that ANU will treat the courses like any other. These two things can’t be true at the same time. To drive home the strong arm tactics, Haines threatened to pull funding if the courses and teachers did not tow RCWC’s ideological line.
There is also the issue of RCWC’s board members also being sitting politicians. On the board, there are both former MPs – Howard and Beazley – and, more worryingly, current MPs. Liberal Party parliamentarians Leeser and Abbott sit on the RCWC board and have a deep involvement with the new degree. A sitting MP – particularly an ideologically divisive one, such as Abbott – having input on the curriculum of a public university is extremely unsettling and goes beyond a simple philanthropic donation. With all these issues you might have thought that justifications for ANU’s deal would be stronger.
The most common argument in favour of the degree is a version of: ‘well people can do Asian, studies major so why not a have a Bachelor in Western Civilization?’ The response to this is twofold. Firstly the Asian studies major is not funded by a group called the Xi Jinping Lord President for Life Appreciation Society. In fact, any whiff of political bias in any course is met with legitimate anger and concern. Courses at ANU are – or if the deal isn’t stopped, were – run by academics that have independent say over course material with the sole goal of educating students. As a result of this, the Asian studies major does not ignore negative aspects of said society or mislead their students to guarantee funding. Secondly, ANU already has a heavily Western-centric model for teaching the humanities – look no further than English, Ancient History and International Relations. And the best thing about these courses is that they don’t sell the education of their students to politicians for some extra cash.
This extra cash will also come with its own cost. RCWC is not a charity: they are not donating, they are buying. RCWC is trying to make their own degree and is paying the university to turn a blind eye to academic independence to do so. The world will see this and treat the ANU accordingly. Secondly, there are MPs on the RCWC board. If they really wanted to properly fund universities they could do it the old-fashioned democratic way, not with the vast wealth of a political partisan’s estate. Finally, we as students also pay ANU, under the presumption that we will be given the best education possible. At a Ramsay Centre forum Rae Frances, Dean of CASS, was asked what the threshold donation for someone to create their own degree would be, she tongue in cheek replied “$50 million.” Well, we – the students – provide ANU with hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and we don’t ask for a degree that mimics our personal political bias. We just ask for the university not to sell our education to the highest bidder.
Sam Brennan is an admin of the Facebook page ‘Keep Ramsay out of ANU’
Comments Off on “MY COUNTRY, RIGHT OR WRONG?” – A FRIENDLY CALL TO ACTION
The number two seems to be everywhere in my life. I have lived in two countries, I’m doing two degrees, and I was born on the 2nd of March. Recently, I celebrated two decades of living and wasting my parents’ money. Most importantly, I’ve always felt that I am of two nations. I was born and raised in Indonesia, but my family is Chinese.
I admire my fellow Indonesians, of course assuming that there is one central Indonesian identity. I am proud of our resilience in the face of trials and tribulations, foreign and domestic. I am proud of our boundless optimism and faith in the better future, despite being continuously let down by others and sometimes even letting ourselves down. I love the fact that we were the first people to unshackle ourselves from the yoke of colonialism and to herald in a new age that rose from the ashes of World War II. At the same time, I feel just as proud about my Chinese identity – part of a community that is 1.4 billion strong and 5,000 years old. I remember listening in awe as my grandfather delighted me with tales of the rise and fall of kingdoms and dynasties, of grand fleets and expeditions, and of the unbroken entrepreneurs and wise men.
Indonesians and Chinese are both my people, and I love them equally – a feeling I think is shared by many of my fellow international students, particularly those from Asia. However, to love our history and way of life is one thing; to unflinchingly support a government because of this is another. The nation and the State are not the same. Pride in our history and culture should not blind us to the questions that our government and politicians have raised. Recent events in both Indonesia and China have indeed forced me to grapple with some troubling questions. I am not sure how to feel about politicians refusing to confront religious fundamentalism in Indonesia that threatens to swamp my home with hate and intolerance, with some politicians apparently tacitly approving. It is also a bitter irony that, a century after the last Qing emperor was deposed, China now has the closest thing to an emperor in power, with its government attempting to develop a ‘credit system’ that could deny public goods to millions of ‘untrustworthy’ citizens.
It is beyond my current ability to provide you with an explanation of why it has come to this. However, I have noticed a pattern has emerged in Asia – from India to Japan, from the Philippines to Thailand – of governments tightening control, abridging civil liberties, and stoking nationalist/sectarian sentiment. This pattern has a clear result: increasing authoritarianism. You may think that we do need authoritarians to show us the way in a world that is becoming less certain and more dangerous. But, to paraphrase Yap Thiam Hien, what’s the point of our people’s fight to be free from foreign oppression and dominance if we end up being oppressed by one of our own? For me, it is self-evident that increasing authoritarianism is unacceptable given the sacrifices made by people infinitely braver to free us from exactly that – authoritarians and oppressors.
However, I cannot answer for you. You may very well end up disagreeing with me and I will respect that. But I ask of you, at least reach this conclusion on your own. Do not base your conclusions on mere blind faith or peer-pressure. Do not feel that you have a sense of obligation to support the government unflinchingly simply because you love your people and ways of life. Do not support your government because of nationalism. In fact, don’t be a nationalist at all. Be a patriot! As Timothy Snyder said, a nationalist tells other people their country is the best; a patriot tells their country to be the best it can be. If you are going to base your support on the old adage: “My country, right or wrong”, then at least be aware that it is incomplete. The full version reads: “My country, right or wrong. If it is right, let it remain right. If it is wrong, let it be set right”. We must express our disagreement if we have any, either through demonstrations or the ballot box. For those who feel unable, remember that from little things, big things grow.
For all this talk about the 21st Century being the ‘Asian Century’, we still haven’t addressed the question of what exactly it entails. Will we see our world split, with countries ruled by paternalistic cabals of old men on one hand and countries ruled by holier-than-thous on the other? Or will the century bring something more? Something better? The answer to this greatly hinges on whether we should accept increasingly authoritarian Asia – and we students couldn’t be better placed to formulate the answer. We are fortunate to have access to the ANU’s wealth of tomes, books, journals, and research papers, as well as its academics, so let’s use them! We have, at best, six years and at worst, if you are doing a Master degree, two. I’m pretty sure there are enough days when we are not swamped by essays or exams and can do a bit of reading at Menzies or attend a conference held here on campus. We should also try talking with people from various backgrounds and differing perspectives. Making friends with them will help insulate you from any attempts to demonise certain groups of people, and will in turn insulate them from attempts at demonising you.
Whatever you decide, the worst option is to do nothing. To go home none the wiser about your country and apathetical about the direction the powers are taking it would be a great tragedy. If nothing else, care for the pragmatic reasons: to make sure we are not left to foot the bill for their mistakes.
It always fascinates me when people ask me if sexual assault is really an issue at Australian universities. I never know how to hide my disbelief or to resist the temptation to yell that it is one of the biggest issues faced by Australian students today.
In my role this year as the Women’s Officer of my residential accommodation, I have been a lightning rod for disclosures of sexual assault. In this position, I have been able to assist survivors in getting the support they need and helping them to return to normality as much as possible.
When I accepted this role, I knew I would be operating as the first point of contact for issues of sexual assault. I was well trained and felt prepared for everything this would entail. Despite this, the number of disclosures I have received has been entirely unexpected. Realistically, every single person I know will know at least one survivor of sexual assault. So, when people ask me if sexual assault is an issue, I am always shocked. It shocks me because time and time again I realise how much shame, guilt and secrecy surrounds survivors of sexual assault. This is a crime that is so rampant, yet so well hidden.
Before I stepped into this role, there were many of truths that I thought were self-evident about sexual assault. Throughout the year, however, I’ve been proven wrong. Instead of viewing it as a horrific crime committed by perpetrators who deserve punishment, I have learned that there are systemic issues that hide the existence of sexual assault and silence survivors of this crime. I have learned that it is the ultimate crime to commit because it does the most damage to survivors with the least repercussions for the perpetrator.
I have learned that there is so much more that we must do. The ANU has implemented consent training programs, and there will be a full-time sexual assault counsellor available to students and staff of the university. I am so excited about these changes and so proud to attend a university that is one of the first to implement these policies. However, there is still so much work to be done. There are still serious limits on grievance mechanisms that are accessible to sexual assault survivors in almost every university context, there are substantial challenges to survivors being capable of reporting, and there are limitations on punishments for perpetrators. These issues absolutely speak to wider societal issues, but we can do better in our university microcosm. While we have had some successes at the ANU, there is still so much more that needs to happen for adequate protection, safe recovery for survivors and effective justice mechanisms for perpetrators.
Despite all of this, there is one thing that has stood out the most across all the work I have done in the area of sexual assault this year. I have seen firsthand the phenomenal strength of survivors; individuals who consistently fight to get their power back, who show how they will not be defined by what has happened to them, rather that they will live their lives in a way that is empowering for them. I have been inspired by the strength and power of these people, in the face of unforgivable circumstances.
Survivors deserve so much more. They deserve to have a voice and to have their voices elevated. I’ve learned in my role that survivors need us – as friends, supporters, and leaders – to believe them, to support them, and to stand with them. This is an issue that affects so many, which requires all of us to take action and stop it from occurring and to fight for survivors to get the justice they deserve.
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Crisis Line
(02) 6247 2525
This is an over the phone counselling service. It is open from 7am to 11pm, 7 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. You must identify yourself as an ANU student to the CRCC but this information is not shared with anyone and the ANU will not be informed. All services are free of charge.
(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 9, as these appointments are first in best dressed. You can receive 6 free sessions per semester.
1800 737 732
This is over the phone counselling and it iss available 24 hours a day, 7 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.
ANUSA and PARSA Student Assistance & Legal Officers
ANUSA (6125 4093) & PARSA (6125 2603)
These services are free and provide confidential assistance on financial, academic or advocacy support issues. Lawyers can offer legal advice.
ANU Women’s Department
Contact the Women’s Officer
For non-urgent inquiries: email@example.com
For urgent matters: 0467 092 808
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, Holly 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
The Queer* Department is part of ANUSA, and it advocates for and supports all Queer* identifying students. Ari can provide pastoral care, referrals to local support services, and give information about options for reporting within the ANU and the support that the ANU can offer.
Comments Off on AHRC Joint Statement: Student Media Editors
We know that there is a history of sexual assault on our university campuses. We know that our administrations continue to silence survivors and allow perpetrators to walk freely around our campuses. We know that the mainstream media continues to misrepresent student experiences and deny us a platform to have our voices heard.
The AHRC survey is not the source of this information. We know this as survivors, students, supporters and friends. We also know this as editors. In our role, we act as the first point of contact for many survivors; those wishing to share their experiences, call their administration to account, and challenge the often damaging norms that govern our campuses.
This aspect of our role has never been more important. Following the release of the AHRC survey, our respective student associations and women’s collectives will be demanding better from our administrations. We understand that we need to support our fellow student leaders in making these demands.
Therefore, we, as the editors of the student media, make this pledge.
We pledge to support survivors. We are often the first point of contact for survivors wishing to share their experiences. We understand that we play an imperative role in the process of ensuring that survivors feel safe and supported. We will act respectfully, communicate fully and openly with survivors, and ensure that their agency is maintained. If the survivor wishes, we will publish pieces anonymously and without identifying details. We will never give out their details to university administrations, to the mainstream media, or to any other party.
We pledge to hold our administrations to account. If the results of the AHRC survey tell us anything, it is that our universities are not doing enough to support survivors and potential survivors. Sexual assaults are unreported because students do not feel safe making disclosures. Information provided by the administrations is either opaque or non-existent. Perpetrators are not held responsible. A quick look into the archive of any student publication proves this to be true. We will hold our administrations to account – through factual reporting and honest opinion – and demand better.
We pledge to elevate student voices in discussions regarding sexual assault on campus. We’ve seen countless reports from mainstream media in the four weeks since the release of the AHRC survey. But there is one key thing missing from this reportage: survivors’ voices. We know that students are underrepresented in discussions regarding the issues that affect us. We hoped that this would change in the reportage of the survey. It hasn’t. As the editors of student media publications, we will elevate survivors’ voices in discussions around sexual assault on campus and we challenge the editors of the mainstream media to do the same.
We know that there is a history of sexual assault on our university campuses. We demand better from our administrations. We demand better from our student bodies. We demand better from the mainstream media.
To any student reading this right now wishing to share their experience, please know that we believe you and we stand with you. We will do everything in our capacity as editors to provide you with a platform where you feel safe and supported. Your voice is important.
Together, we will break the silence.
Editors of Woroni (Australian National University)
Editors of Bossy (Australian National University)
Editors of ShOUT (Australian National University)
Editors of Grapeshot (Macquarie University)
Editors of Curieux (University of Canberra)
Editors of Catalyst (RMIT University)
Editors of Empire Times (Flinders University)
Editors of W’SUP (Western Sydney University)
Comments Off on I’m a (Not) Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here
The plane touches down into the Sydney Airport, and I sigh internally, breathing in the familiarity and safety of return. For me, Australia is a safe place: I speak the language, and I know the culture. It’s where my home, family and friends are. I love to travel, and I especially love to explore countries and cultures distinct from my own. China was no exception, but there was one negative experience that sticks in my mind.
Within my first 20 minutes in Asia, in Singapore, a Vietnamese man asked for a photo with me. I joked later that he was my first fan. At The China House in Tianjin, I asked another fan’s friend to take a photo on my phone too. A woman asked for selfies with me twice at Mount Taishan. My Chinese friend kept joking that I was famous. It was funny, but it felt strange to be treated like an undeserving celebrity.
The gazes and not-so-subtle photos became an ordinary part of my life. In Australia, I would never tolerate it, but I put it up to cultural difference. It’s all part of the travel experience for a young white woman, and it’s less irritating if you joke about it.
Then I started to hear from multiple people that a man had been lurking on the street between our hotel and university, following and grabbing the white women in our group. He’d grabbed someone’s bum from behind as she waited to cross the street; he’d followed another pair closely until they ran away.
One morning, I was walking with my roommate, when a man walked up fast from beside me, invasively brushed against my side with his forearm, did an 180-degree turn and walked back past me. Seemingly, he had made a v-line for me. As I walked home alone from class that day, the eyes on me were signs of a threat. My vulnerability was too much. I got back to my room and cried.
I talked to other girls in my group. It was the same man. This was reassuring in a sense, but it also meant we had a consistent threat, and we were on constant lookout. The walk to class was no longer simple or enjoyable. The men in our group suggested that they accompany us to class. This was not the point.
We told the convenor, a woman from NTU in Singapore, and she recommended we go to the police. Although most of the others thought it would be useless, two of us went along with a student guide from Tianjin University. We entered a police station thick with cigarette smoke, despite the ‘no smoking’ signs in every room. Of the 40-odd police officers’ photos displayed on the wall, only two were women. The only woman we saw in the flesh was the cleaner – picking cigarette butts off the floor as she mopped. Our guide translated as we explained what had happened, and the officer asked us endless questions. Where did it happen? What time was it exactly? How tall was he? Why didn’t you call the police straight away? They were only interested in our experiences; we weren’t allowed to speak for our friends. I was worried that our guide might mistranslate something and make them dismiss the whole case.
Eventually, they decided to look at the video footage – one advantage of China’s heightened surveillance. They flipped between shots of the surrounding streets before telling us that, even if the cameras did catch something, the police couldn’t arrest him unless he did something ‘more extreme.’ They told us to try and catch it on camera next time. Before we left, frustrated, the police officer laboured to try to teach us how to say ‘leave me alone’ in Chinese. If only we’d thought of that!
The next few days, we noticed officers and cars on the way to class. The next time we saw the man, he walked on to the road to avoid us. It seemed that, despite our unpleasant experience at the station, the police had spoken to him and increased their presence. Suffice to say I was pleasantly surprised, as were my friends back home, particularly those with Chinese heritage. A few days later, I got an email from the ANU, saying they hoped I was okay and offering me phone counselling if I wanted it. Others on the trip received no such emails from their universities. I have no clue what it would have been like if this was in Canberra, or indeed if the perpetrator had been a fellow student, rather than a random Chinese man.
Despite the follow-up, the experience at the police station was incredibly negative. It’s hard to explain it succinctly, but there was a strong vibe that they thought we were wasting their time. It was frustrating for me, but I know I was lucky to be a white person in a non-white country and not vice versa. Imagine being an immigrant to Australia, not a tourist, and being assaulted by a local. Imagine being asked why you didn’t call the police straight away, when you don’t have a full grasp of the language they speak. Imagine being scared to call the police, because they don’t treat you the same way as people of their race. My Chinese-American friend told me later that she never feels comfortable walking on the street in the USA as a woman of colour. The plight of minorities, racial or otherwise, is worse in this regard and this is clear from the survey results released this month.
I have heard many horrific stories of police reactions to sexual harassment and assault, in Australia and abroad. I can understand why so many go unreported, and it breaks my heart that the system so often fails to protect people. I hope this month’s AHRC report doesn’t dishearten survivors, and that it leads to better responses, at least in Australia.
This past week, the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) Survey on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault has been a topic of discussion across many university circles. What shocks me most is that there are still people on this campus who found these results shocking at all.
Survivors, friends of survivors, student representatives, and staff members who have received disclosures are all painstakingly aware of the horrifying excerpts of cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment on our campus. For us, these results merely confirm what we have suspected for decades.
I am lucky to have a voice and would like to share on behalf of some students who have been silenced due to the mistreatment of their disclosure of sexual assault. They have confided in me and are comfortable with me sharing their stories anonymously to raise awareness of the unfortunately gross mishandling of sexual assault and sexual harassment that our peers here at the ANU have endured.
A Senior Resident at a residential hall was accused of assaulting a student. The hall did not remove the SR from the hall of residence; rather, he chose to leave weeks after rumours of the alleged assault circulated. In another instance, a fellow resident and alleged abuser was appointed to SR after the administration of the residential hall had been made aware of the abuse. Unsurprisingly, the AHRC survey found a common theme of perpetrators abusing positions of power. Not only is staff engaging in this behaviour towards students an area of concern. The survey also identified instances of senior students in leadership positions sexually assaulting or sexually harassing other students in clubs and societies, at Uni Games, on orientation camps and within residential colleges.
There are also other types of power imbalances when it comes to perpetrators and survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The AHCRC survey highlighted that students with disability were more likely to have been sexually assaulted in 2015 or 2016 than students without disability. As the Disabilities Officer, I am deeply disturbed to know that in some instances students have even been declined special consideration for assessments when applying on the basis of having been sexually assaulted.
There are far too many incidences of survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment not being offered support. Rather, at times they are told that little, to nothing, can done about these allegations and are recommended to leave if they feel threatened or unsafe in their current living situation. Let’s get one thing straight: no survivor should ever be forced to be in the presence of or make peace with their perpetrator, especially not when they are being encouraged to do so purely on the institution’s best interests. In the above two SR incidents, the residential halls preferred to stand neutral between the survivor and the perpetrator. Make no mistake, neutrality favours the perpetrator.
When, if any, in any other crime is the victim blamed and ostracised?
These mishandled cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment discourage other survivors within the community fromto disclosinge and create a barrier from receiving much-needed support. Our institution continues to silence survivors, but we can no longer continue this battle. I came to Australia to study at the ANU in hopes of escaping the violence towards women and lack of respect for my education as a woman in Pakistan. Yet, I personally know two students who were left to drop out of the ANU due not only to the lack of support but even the accusational attitude that they were met with when disclosing to the university. How, in today’s Australia, can sexual assault and sexual harassment still prevent women from receiving an equal and fair education to those of their peers? To paraphrase, how does our university allow perpetrators to continue studying at the ANU while victims of a crime are targeted and left unsupported to the extent that some have found it impossible to complete their tertiary education?
Of the students who were sexually assaulted at the ANU, 93 per cent did not make a formal report or complaint to anyone at the university. I am stunned that the horror stories we are aware of only shape four per cent (three per cent preferred not to say) of the disclosed cases of sexual assault on campus. This alone should compel the ANU to advocate for its large community of survivors to encourage them to seek support rather than be made to feel like a liability.
As I mentioned at the Speak Out and Sit In by ANUSA and PARSA, I echo what fellow survivors have said. There are no congratulations to be had at the release of this survey nor are comparisons between universities appropriate. We demand the ANU to do better. We can no longer work around mishandled cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment. I demand that the safety of students become an utmost priority and can only hope that the ANU will follow through and continue to take ANUSA and PARSA’s demands seriously. We need to finally recognise sexual assault and sexual harassment for what it is, a crime, and take appropriate action against perpetrators of this crime.
To all survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment: we believe you, it is not your fault, and you are not alone. Please reach out to available resources for support during this painful and infuriating time.
Aji is the 2017 ANU Disabilities Officer.
The Disabilities Student Association is the only on-campus group run by students with disability, for students with disability. Aji can be contacted for all non-urgent matters. She can provide confidential support, referrals to local professional support services, and can offer assistance when navigating the ANU’s support systems. Aji can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If this story has raised any concerns, you can contact:
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Crisis Line
(02) 6247 2525
(02) 6125 2442
1800 737 732
ANU Women’s Department
Contact the Women’s Officer, Holly Zhang:
– For non-urgent inquiries: email@example.com
– For urgent matters: 0467 092 808
In the weeks preceding and following the release of the Change the Course results, a lot of myths about sexual assault have been bantered around the ANU campus and internet comment sections. Restorative ANU are here to bust a few that are particularly close to our heart:
Myth: Only the police can deal with sexual assault.
Fact: The ANU has rules about misconduct (mostly found in the Discipline Rule (2015)). If an ANU student victimises or harasses another student, they are committing misconduct. The ANU can investigate an incident, come to a finding, and take steps against students who are found to have committed misconduct. A student who misbehaves can be: excluded from campus, have their enrolment suspended or terminated, and the ANU can notify other agencies or organisations about the finding.
Universities can create administrative systems that empower survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and still afford alleged perpetrators procedural fairness. Unlike the court system, universities can’t throw people in jail – and so findings of misconduct do not need to be held to the same standard of proof as criminal convictions of sexual assault.
In addition to this, universities have a duty of care towards their students, and the ANU has a responsibility to foster a safe learning environment. This includes dealing with sexual harassment and assault, even when the victim does not want to go to the police. This was reiterated by the Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, in his statement following the release of the survey results – his office will be directly writing to each university to determine what steps they are taking to uphold their legal obligation to promote a safe learning environment.
Myth: Even if they’re not the only ones who can deal with it, police are still best equipped to deal with sexual assault.
Fact: It is estimated that in Australia, fewer than one in 100 sexual assaults will result in a criminal conviction.
In an adversarial system that prioritises the rights of the accused, victims are not put in the centre of the alleged assault, but they are witnesses. And, in some cases, their bodies are even treated as evidence. When the impacts of trauma start to show, such as memory fog, dissociation, or your body freezing, the process regards this as contradictory evidence.
Trials can take years, and universities deflect responsibility by insisting on going to the police and that they ‘can’t do anything’ in the meantime. Years of walking around campus, going to classes, trying to live your life – all while seeing your perpetrator face no repercussions for their actions.
Convictions are often lenient. Many cases don’t progress to court because they are not ‘perfect victims’ – because they couldn’t remember what happened, because they were assaulted by a partner, because they waited ‘too long’ to speak out, or because it’s just a case of ‘he said, she said’.
Authorities tell victims that, because their perpetrator believed that they were consenting, then their experience does not constitute assault – even if ‘in [their] own mind’, they did not consent. Perpetrators are allowed to walk away, to never think of what they did ever again – but for victims, ‘the reality doesn’t get to be over … I don’t get to know who I would be today had this not happened to me, and I mourn for that person’.
This is a traumatising and emotionally exhausting process. Who would blame any survivor of violence for not using the criminal justice system when it treats them so abhorrently?
Myth: ‘I don’t associate with people like that’; ‘Rapists are monsters who hide in the bushes and attack at night’; ‘He’s a decent guy – I don’t think he could do what she said he did.’
Fact: Change the Course shows what we have been saying for a long time: most victims of sexual violence are women, and most perpetrators are men. More than half of perpetrators attend the same university as their victim. There are rapists, sexual harassers, stalkers and other perpetrators of sexual violence at the ANU. And they’re not hiding in the bushes; they go to your tutes, they live on res, they hang out at the ANU Bar. They’re your Facebook friends. How do you find out who among us are the perpetrators behind the statistics we’re seeing? Unfortunately, women and queer* people often only find out once it’s too late – we find out only once we’ve become the victims of sexual harassment or assault.
If you don’t think you know any rapists or enablers – listen to the women and non-binary people in your life. Even when they’re talking about your mate. Even when you don’t want to believe it. Even when you can come up with a million reasons it didn’t happen that way – listen to them.
Myth: Restorative ANU wants everyone to hug it out and let monsters roam our campus
Fact: By doing nothing, our university already lets monsters roam our campus. Perpetrators are allowed to recommit as they face little to no disciplinary action – they are allowed to take up leadership positions in Clubs, ResComs, and become SRs. They are allowed to move around to different colleges. They are allowed to continue attending our university, and they are allowed to graduate. Many victims of violence do not get this opportunity.
The ANU did not comply with the largest FOI request in history – Sunday Night revealed that hundreds of complaints had been made at universities across Australia, with little disciplinary action against perpetrators.
How many incidents have there been at the ANU? How many expulsions or removals? Change the Course indicates that there were 116 incidents at the ANU, but this is only out of the approximately 1500 people surveyed. This means that the number is likely to be much higher, and the number of perpetrators who continue to roam our campus remains terrifying.
Restorative processes can only take place when every person involved in an incident agrees. Perpetrators sitting down and having a conversation about what they did wrong is something that most never have to do, and in a conference, there’s nowhere for them to hide. Sometimes, restorative practice doesn’t involve the victim and perpetrator, but the victim and their surrounding community (people they lived with and were affected by the incident, family and friends, those who supported them, those who supported the perpetrator), and the institution that betrayed and mistreated them.
We don’t want everyone to ‘hug it out’. We want an apology, and a commitment to do better. We don’t want press conferences; we want concrete action.
The ANU can do better
The news that the ANU will fund external reviews into both the University-wide policy, as well as each residence, gives some of us activists a little bit of hope. Now is our chance to ask the university to show us what ‘zero-tolerance’ actually means, and see consequences for perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment at our university.
We want an apology from the University for how it has treated us. We want support for survivors and student advocates who are expected to do the work of professional service providers. We want disciplinary action for perpetrators. We want a restorative process so we can finally start healing.
If this story has raised any concerns, you can contact:
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Crisis Line
(02) 6247 2525
(02) 6125 2442
1800 737 732
ANU Women’s Department
Contact the Women’s Officer, Holly Zhang:
– For non-urgent inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
– For urgent matters: 0467 092 808
my hands touch
m y s e l f
running warm skin
slipping down like honeysuckle on summer’s first night.
what for so long i only thought
o t h e r ’ s
could approach and take away.
eye off, own in their enlarged hands.
hands so large they smother every pocket and pore my body is allowed,
too large, hands
t o o l a r g e .
a body i only minimised and hurt and
even if my brain
in its state of altered eternity
forgot, muddled, pretended to
what stranger’s hands that touched meant to
my body, that now
forever accepts, bows down
to those with no thoughts, no feelings, no trust
d a r e d
they don’t deserve what i don’t know. so now
and own my legs that walk across
m o u n t a i n s
and arms that comfort those
who have also been touched by enlarged hands.
and my touch, my s k i n it is my own.