National Student Safety Survey highlights Deakin's commitment to confronting sexual harm

Media release

23 March 2022

Deakin University has welcomed the release of the National Student Safety Survey (NSSS) as a significant opportunity for Australian universities to continue to confront the scourge of sexual harm in the community.

Last September, the NSSS gathered data on the scale and nature of students’ perceptions of safety and experiences relating to sexual harm (including sexual assault and sexual harassment) at Australian universities.

Of Deakin’s more than 66,000 students, about 10,000 were invited to participate in the survey’s qualitative component and 1166 students responded. In addition, current and former students enrolled within the past five years were given the opportunity to share their experiences on the NSSS website.

Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin said the release of the NSSS highlighted that sexual harm is an issue across society, and in response, Deakin would continue strengthening its prevention, safety and support programs.

“While the data reflects that, for the vast majority of our students, Deakin is a safe place, even one instance of sexual harm is too many. Deakin has worked with our staff and students for many years to build a strong culture of safety, mutual respect and inclusion – but there is always more to do,” Professor Martin said.

“Together, we must continue to confront the scourge of sexual harm both at universities and across our broader communities. This behaviour has no place at Deakin, and with insights from the NSSS, we have strengthened our Respect and Sexual Harm programs to continue supporting our students and changing attitudes and behaviours.

“On behalf of the University community, I thank each of the 1166 Deakin students who accepted the invitation to participate in the NSSS, and those willing to share their experiences. You have helped us understand where to focus our energy.”

Survey Results

The NSSS data showed the experiences of the 1166 Deakin students who completed the survey were broadly consistent with the national findings. Based on the responses of the Deakin students who participated:

  • 12.1 per cent of Deakin students who participated in the survey had experienced some form of sexual harassment in a university setting since commencing study. This compared to 16.1 per cent nationally.
  • 4.5 per cent of Deakin students who participated in the survey had experienced some form of sexual harassment in a university setting in the past year. This compared to 8.1 per cent nationally.
  • 3.7 per cent of Deakin students who participated in the survey had experienced some form of sexual assault in a university setting since commencing study. This compared to 4.5 per cent nationally.

Deakin’s Response

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Liz Johnson said the survey data revealed the need to increase student awareness about access to support services and where to go to report incidents.

“The national and Deakin results highlight that around half of students knew nothing or very little about the formal reporting process for sexual harassment or sexual assault,” Professor Johnson said.

“In addition, only 6.7 per cent of students who were sexually harassed went on to make a formal complaint to the University.

“The data also highlights that around half of students know little about where to seek support or assistance for harassment or sexual assault. Only 17.7 per cent of students who were sexually harassed sought support or assistance from Deakin.

“In response, we have already made this information more prominent online and on-campus, and we will work with our students to improve communication and understanding.

“We take a proactive approach to preventing sexual harm. We have a strong foundation of policies, procedures and programs and are committed to working towards improving how we respond to and support those in our university community who have been affected.

“Through the delivery of our Respect and Sexual Harm programs, we focus on changing the attitudes and behaviours that lead to incidents and building a safer and more respectful community.”

Deakin initiatives to ensure student safety and prevent harm include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating a single point of contact for anyone to disclose sexual harm, family violence or behaviours of concern and receive support. The needs and wishes of those who have experienced or witnessed sexual harm are central to the support provided. This includes when referring or connecting to other university services such as counselling and psychological support, medical centres, campus security, and external services, including police, medical assistance, hospitals, and specialist sexual assault centres
  • The establishment of a Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Group with broad-based membership that continues to review sexual harm prevention and response activities and plans
  • The introduction of an online Respect at Deakin module, which all  students are encouraged to complete.  The introduction of an online Respect at Deakin module, which all students are encouraged to complete.  The module was first introduced in 2017 and refreshed and revised for 2022. Staff are also encouraged to access and complete the module.
  • Higher degree by research (HDR) students and supervisors have access to a tailored ‘Respect at Deakin – HDR: Respectful Supervisory Relationships’ online module, including coverage of positive and respectful supervisory relationships.
  • Staff and students are offered education and capacity building programs. Staff must complete compulsory online staff modules on ‘Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Harm’ and ‘Respectful Behaviour.’ Those who work directly with students and are more likely to receive disclosures about sexual harm are provided with additional training and support to foster a person-centred response and referrals to appropriate services.
  • Independent reviews were conducted of counselling and student accommodation by Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) in 2018 following recommendations outlined in the Australian Human Rights Commission Change the Course Report. These reviews highlighted many examples of best practices already in place and guiding ongoing improvements to services.
  • Deakin is currently participating in a joint eSafety pilot project, facilitated by the e-Safety Commissioner and Universities Australia, focused on preventing online abuse and improving the safety of students while studying and socialising online.
  • All students residing within student accommodation at Deakin must complete an online induction program that includes direct reference to consent, bystander intervention, respectful behaviours and sexual harm. Deakin Residential Services’ RESPECT values also guide community expectations and standards amongst the on-campus residential student cohort. First introduced in 2016, these values extend beyond rules and regulations to outline core ideals embraced by the 3,000 students who call Deakin home.

Important Contacts

  • Deakin is committed to ensuring that members of our community have access to free and confidential advice and support. If you are a current student or staff member and would like to access advice or support, please contact Safer Community (available Monday–Friday, 9am–4pm).
  • Deakin offers free confidential counselling and psychological support to all current Deakin students located in Australia. To book an appointment, visit Deakin Counselling. The University also offers the counselling service Student Assistance Program to students located outside of Australia. This free support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is available in English and in local languages. It can be accessed via phone, video chat, and face-to-face in locations across 130 countries.
  • Free and confidential psychological support is also available to staff via Employee Wellbeing Support Services.

The following specialist services are also available at any time, any day:

  • 1800 RESPECT – Sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling: 1800respect.org.au or 1800 737 732
  • Lifeline – 24-hr crisis support and suicide prevention: lifeline.org.au or 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue – Mental health support: beyondblue.org.au or 1300 224 636
  • Sexual Assault Crisis Line Victoriasacl.com.au or 1800 806 292 (24 hours)
  • QLife – 1800 184 527, or qlife.org.au.
  • MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78, or mensline.org.au.

For more information on Deakin’s response, visit Deakin's NSSS website.

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