The Australian Human Rights Commission’s report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities has found that LGBTI students face higher rates of sexual assault and harassment on campus than their cis and straight peers.
The landmark data in the report was based on a survey completed by more than 30,000 university students across all 39 Australian universities.
“The unavoidable conclusion of the data we have gathered is that incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment are occurring at unacceptable rates at Australian universities,” said Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
“Sexual assault and sexual harassment have a devastating physical, emotional, and psychological impact on individuals.”
The data found that 44 per cent of students that identified as bisexual and 38 per cent of students that identified as gay or lesbian were sexually harassed in a university setting last year, compared to 23 per cent of straight-identifying students.
It also found that trans and gender diverse students were more likely to have been sexually harassed at uni last year than cisgender students, with 45 per cent of gender diverse respondents reporting assault or harassment.
When incidents occurring while travelling to or from university were excluded, 19 per cent of straight-identifying students reported experiencing assault, while 34 per cent of gay and lesbian students reported experiencing it as well.
Students who identified as bisexual in particular were more likely than those who identified as gay or lesbian to have been sexually assaulted in a university setting in 2015 or 2016.
Some submissions to the Commission by LGBTI students revealed they didn’t report the assault or harassment because they were afraid that the person they reported to might hold negative attitudes towards them based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
“I didn’t report it to anyone or tell anyone of this incident,” one respondent wrote.
“There is already a social stigma against homosexuals in Australia, and I think my experience will exacerbate it.”
The Commission also heard in submissions that people who had not ‘come out’ as gay did not feel comfortable reporting an incident.
“The evidence is clear that universities need to do more to prevent such abuse from occurring and to build a culture that responds appropriately to these incidents by supporting victims and sanctioning perpetrators,” Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
The report includes nine recommendations on areas for action and reform – eight of which are directed at universities and one of which is aimed at university colleges.