NSW tertiary students are calling for a standardised support system for women who experience sexual assault or rape on university and TAFE campuses.
The student-led petition is urging mandatory training on sexual consent for residents and staff in residential colleges as well as a sexual assault reporting model based on a “best practice method”.
Students are also demanding specialised services for victims such as counsellors and academic provisions.
Isabella Brook, president of the Students’ Representative Council at Sydney University, says the experience of sexual assault is “isolating” for victims, and not having the right support services available makes it worse.
“All of the universities have their own reporting processes and some of them don’t even have reporting processes that are available and widely known across the community,” she told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
“To be from a rural background, to be from a low socio-economic status background, and not really know where to turn to when these things happen is even more isolating.
“The universities are letting [victims] down and not providing those vital services.”
Fairfax Media reports a recent submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission has accused universities of actively covering up sexual assaults. It’s alleged there have been just six expulsions in the past five years despite more than 500 official complaints.
The National Union of Students last year released a report suggesting 72 per cent of students had experienced some form of sexual harassment including cases of stalking and rape.
Federal Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek says some institutions have “very good policies” in place but their enforcement is often “haphazard”.
She said it is unacceptable that some students still don’t understand issues of consent, adding that sexual assault must be considered a crime regardless of the location.
NSW opposition sexual assault spokeswoman Jenny Aichison said women should be able to enjoy the “fantastic time” that is studying at university or TAFE without the issue of sexual assault.
“Women’s lives matter, women’s health matters, and they should be protected from these kind of actions,” Ms Aichison said.
The signed petition will be presented to the NSW parliament later this year.
Readers seeking support can contact the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line on 1800 737 732