A new web portal aimed at making it easier for UNSW students or staff to report sexual assault and sexual harassment, and find and navigate information on available support services was launched this week at UNSW.
The Sexual Assault, Harassment & Misconduct portal was launched by the University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs, who stressed the importance of having an easily accessible and dedicated reporting point for the UNSW community to report sexual misconduct issues.
“The Sexual Assault, Harassment & Misconduct portal was developed in consultation with students and provides simple, clear step-by-step information on how to report sexual assault or sexual harassment, with reminders on how to access specialist support services,” Professor Jacobs said.
“The portal will allow anyone to report an incident of sexual assault or harassment, whether they are someone who has been directly affected, a witness to an incident or a support person.
“Reports can be made anonymously and will remain confidential unless specifically stated by the person reporting.”
Aislinn Stein-Magee, President of the Student Representative Council, said the web portal was an important first step at the beginning of a long journey of cultural change and definitive action.
“It’s about recognising the harmful role that universities have played in the past in regards to their responses to sexual violence – but also the positive potential they have for leading University culture away from stigma and gender inequality, and towards respectful and equitable communities.
“The portal provides a clear and accessible avenue for reporting. I welcome any structural and policy changes that will help minimise sexual violence and provide support services to those affected by sexual violence,” she said.
Professor Jacobs acknowledged the work of the University's Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN) in the development of the portal and said that along with providing valuable information to students and staff the portal also played an important role in data collection, allowing for patterns of behaviour and the effectiveness of procedures to be better assessed and evaluated.
In addition to the launch of the new web portal, UNSW has been working with a number of volunteer students and staff to train them in how to be First Responders, Professor Jacobs said.
“We recently called for expressions of interest from appropriate staff and students to be trained as ‘first responders’ to disclosures of sexual assault/misconduct and I am pleased to say that over 200 staff and students have now completed their training, which was run by the Gendered Violence Research Network.
“First responder training enables participants to be able to respond respectfully to a person making a disclosure or reporting such an issue. They are not counsellors but they are trained to respond appropriately to concerns and guide people to the right support services. They can also help you complete a report in this portal."
Professor Jacobs said the launch of the portal comes a week before the release of Australian Human Rights Commission's National Student Survey on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault.
“UNSW welcomes the release of next week’s findings and has fully supported the Commission to independently examine this issue.
“We remain committed to assisting students and staff who are adversely affected by sexual misconduct. Sexual assault and harassment are undeniable realities that affect students, staff and visitors to campus and universities around Australia, and the simple fact is we need to do more to ensure students, staff and visitors to our campus are better protected.
Professor Jacobs said the University remained open to the findings of the Commission’s survey, and the results of an independent external review into UNSW’s procedures and policies around preventing and responding to sexual assault, sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour and would use the findings to develop a standalone Sexual Misconduct Policy.
“We want to use every bit of information available to us to continually improve our reporting and support mechanisms and fulfil our commitment to provide a safe, respectful and non-discriminatory environment for all our students and staff.”
The Sexual Assault, Harassment & Misconduct web portal is accessible via https://student.unsw.edu.au/harassment