University of Newcastle criticised for reporting of sexual assault complaints

Posted April 20th, 2019 by admin and filed in 南京夜网
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Nanjing Night Net

THE University of Newcastle has been criticised for disclosing “the bare minimum”about itssexual assaultand harassment complaints, and offering a “one-size-fits-all”processfor victims, following 14 official complaints in the past three years.

The allegations, madeby the advocacy group End Rape on Campus Australia, stem from the group’s submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission and five years of data from freedom-of-information requests.

Ofalmost600 official complaints of sexual assault and harassment made toAustralian universities in the past five years, 14 were atthe University of Newcastle between2014 and2016.

Following five complaints of sexual assault or harassment at the university in 2016, two students were expelled, two were excluded from accommodation, one was suspended, one was referred forthe university’s “ethics training” andonestudent waswarned.

There were sixcomplaints at the universityin 2015, resulting in asuspension, three students being excluded from accommodation, four being referred for ethics training, and four warnings.

Afterthree complaints in 2014, three students were referred for ethics training. The university didn’t discloseany data from2012 or 2013.

“Newcastle did comply, but they gave the absolute bare minimum. Other universities included full reports of thesecases, and detailed descriptions of what the complaints were. Newcastle gave very basic, summary data,” Nina Funnell,co-author of the End Rape on Campus report, said.

“It’s disappointing that their records areincomplete, anddon’t even distinguish between sexual assault and sexual harassment.”

In a statement to theNewcastle Herald,the university said, “the University of Newcastle has no tolerance for sexual assault or harassment”.

The universityreports itssexualcomplaintsin“aggregated form”, a spokesperson said, toprotect the confidentiality of those involved.

The university said it encouragesstudents to report criminal matters to the police, and thediscloseddata for 2012 and 2013doesn’t includecomplaints where the victimrequested no actionby the university.

“Last year the University of Newcastlehas partnered with Universities Australia and other universities across Australian in a national campaign –‘Respect. Now. Always.’–to prevent sexual assault and harassment,” the spokesperson said.

MORE TO BE DONE: Nina Funnell is a co-author of the End Rape On Campus Australia report, ‘Connecting the dots: Understanding Sexual Assault in University Communities’.

While avictimmight expect a legal outcome against their rapistto take two years, Ms Funnell, co-author of theEnd Rape on Campus report, said it was “concerning” that a “Student Complaints” section of the universitywebsiteadvises“discuss your concerns directly with the person involved and attempt to resolve the matter”.

Another section, headed “Complaints Process: our three-tier resolution model”, says, “we encourage you to informally resolve your concern or issue at the lowest level possible”.

“It’s a one-size-fits-all resolution model that is entirely inappropriate for a victim –to tell them to informally reconcile with the offender,” Ms Funnell said.

“The universityshould have invested the time, money and effort to devise a more informed, trauma-appropriate resolution model. It’s not like they haven’t beengetting complaints.”

The university said itsstudent complaints portal is for allegations ofacademic and non-academic misconduct, and thosewithsexual assault and harassment complaints are encouragedto tell staff, the Dean of Students andon-campus doctors.

TheHeraldwas directed to a “Campus Care” section of the universitywebsite, withadvice for victims of inappropriate and threatening behaviour, and lists ofcontacts.

But a link for “advice and support for victims of sexual assault” didn’t work.

The university women’s convener, Lucinda Iacono, said the 14 sexual complaints to the university in the pastthree years didn’t represent the scale of the problem.

“I could name more women who’ve come to me. The rate of women reporting these issues is low, and definitely more has happened,” Ms Iacono said.

“There’s a plethora of things, from people saying things [to victims] that are inappropriate, to people doing things. It’s important to recognise it isn’t always someone pulling a woman into the bushes.”

The End Rape on Campus report is one of 1845submissions toaHuman Rights Commission survey.

The survey is supportedby Universities Australia, includingNewcastle.

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