Sexual harassment widespread at Australia universities

Startling data after 30,000 students surveyed by Australian Human Rights Commission

A student of Australian National University in Canberra protests after the release of the national student survey on sexual assault and sexual harassment on Tuesday. Photograph: Lukas Coch/EPA

More than half of university students in Australia experienced sexual harassment at least once last year, according to one of the world's most comprehensive studies on the issue undertaken in universities.

Women were twice as likely as men to be harassed and men were overwhelmingly reported as the perpetrators, according to the report by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

One in 10 women suffered a sexual assault in 2015 or 2016 – three times as many as men – according to the study, which surveyed 30,000 students from all 39 Australian universities.

The Australian study was commissioned following advocacy by victims of sexual assault and a growing international focus on the issue particularly in the UK and US, where victims have reported they were often dissuaded from making official complaints.


The vast majority of students who experienced sexual harassment (94 per cent) or assault (92 per cent) at an Australian university did not make a formal report or complaint.

About a quarter of students reported that the sexual harassment incident took place in a university setting. Two-thirds of these incidents involved a fellow student and 7 per cent a tutor or lecturer.

Just 6 per cent of students felt their university was doing enough to provide clear information on procedures, policies and support services.

Almost half (45 per cent) of students who were sexually harassed in a university setting knew some or all of the perpetrators of the most recent incident.

One in five students experienced technology-based sexual harassment in 2016, although not necessarily in a way connected with their university.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017