The University of Queensland has come under fire from the UQ Union Women’s Collective over the university’s handling of and response to sexual assault and harassment.
The Women’s Collective issued a statement on May 24, in response to stories published in The Australian newspaper on May 22 detailing the alleged sexual harassment and assault of two different women by a man that would go on to become a tutor at UQ.
In The Australian’s article it is reported that UQ investigators asked the women invasive questions, such as what they were wearing.
In their statement the Women’s Collective said that they had heard of numerous cases that had been mishandled by the university.
“The Women’s Collective has heard numerous accounts from students of the mishandling of cases throughout the reporting process,” The Women’s Collective said in their statement.
Vice-President of Gender and Sexuality, and Chair of the Women’s Collective, Emily Searle, said that university needed to handle claims with more compassion.
“Sexual assault and harassment claims need to be handled with sensitivity to avoid re-traumatising victims,” Ms Searle said.
“The two main ways UQ can improve is by keeping the victim involved and informed in every stage of the complainants process and for the Integrity and Investigations Unit to be completely overhauled, students should not be asked what they were wearing as if it’s relevant.”
“A survivor should never have been told that she didn’t look scared enough.”
The Women’s Collective will be holding a meeting on May 26th to give students the opportunity to raise concerns with the committee.
On May 28 representatives from the Women’s Collective will be attending the Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Misconduct.
Ms Searle went on to say the university should reflect on the changes they need to make to address this issue.
“UQ has a massive problem with sexual harassment and the bandaid solutions that have been implemented are transparent,” Ms Searle said.
“Most people who have read the article are outraged but not surprised.”
The university’s handling of the complaints was condemned by the advocacy group End Rape On Campus, describing UQ as an abusive institution.
“Just as it takes a village to protect an abuser, it takes a village to protect an abusive institution,” End Rape On Campus said in a statement.
In a statement released the same day of the article, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deborah Terry, said the university takes matters of sexual assault and harassment very seriously.
“I want to provide my absolute assurance that the University takes matters of sexual assault and misconduct very seriously,” The Vice-Chancellor said.
Following a review of student disciplinary policy and processes the university has begun to implement some changes to the way it handles sexual harassment and assault.
The changes include:
- Simplifying three policies that relate to how the university handles these matters – Student Code of Conduct Policy; Student Integrity and Misconduct Policy; and the Sexual Misconduct Policy.
- Providing additional mandatory sexual assault and sexual harassment training and support to university staff who are on the front line of the university’s response.
- Working more closely with residential colleges on sharing information on matters of student safety.
- Working towards a greater level of screening of potential employees who may have had complaints about misconduct upheld through the University’s disciplinary processes.
- Making it easier for students to find information on the UQ Respect website.
If the article has raised any concerns please use the resources listed below.
PLEASE CALL 000 IN AN EMERGENCY
LIFELINE: 13 11 14
UQ 24/7 emergency mental health support phone line: 1800-737-732
Phone: 1300224636 (24/7)
Online chat: https://online.beyondblue.org.au/…/InitialInformation.aspx
Phone: 1800 650 890
Online Chat: https://headspace.org.au/log-in/?redirect=%2Fmy-account%2F
How to access free psychology/counselling sessions:
- Contact your GP and make an appointment for a Mental Health Treatment Plan
- A Mental Health Treatment Plan gives you access to 20x one hour appointments in a calendar year
- Your GP will refer you to a local practitioner
Make a report –
UQ Respect: https://respect.uq.edu.au
If you need counseling and can’t book through the UQ online site, then try giving them a call as UQ has employed extra councillors in response to the article.