Sexual harm

Sexual harm is a crime and misuse of power, violating personal boundaries. It is not your fault. Sexual harm is not acceptable within our community or on our campuses.

Whether you’re a student or staff member; whether the harm occurred recently or a long time ago, on campus, at a University event, during a placement, or in your personal life away from the University - support is always available.

What is sexual harm?

Sexual harm is any unwanted, non-consensual behaviour of a sexual nature. Sexual harm includes sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment and any other unwanted sexual behaviour, whether online or in person.

Sexual harm is a crime that can happen to anyone, of any age, sexual orientation, gender, cultural background or religious belief.

Sexual harm is never the responsibility of the person who has been assaulted, and is often perpetrated by someone known to the person.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment involves an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which, in the circumstances, a reasonable person, aware of those circumstances, would anticipate the possibility that the person would feel offended, humiliated, or intimidated.

Behaviours that are considered sexual harassment include:

  • leering, sexually explicit conversations and suggestive comments or jokes about a person’s appearance or body
  • unnecessary physical familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person
  • persistent unwelcome social invitations, requests for dates or intrusive questions about a person’s private life
  • sending sexually explicit messages or distributing sexually offensive messages or material.

Sexual harassment can also occur when the workplace culture permits general sexual banter, innuendo, sexually explicit jokes or the display of pornographic materials. Sexual harassment could be a single incident or a series of incidents.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault includes a range of behaviours, all of which are unacceptable and constitute a crime. Sexual assault occurs when a person is forced, coerced or tricked into sexual acts against their will or without their consent, including when they have withdrawn their consent.

Deakin's policy, as per the Crimes Act 1958 (VIC) Section 40, defines sexual assault as:

  • intentionally touching another person and
  • the touching is sexual and
  • the person who was touched did not agree or consent.

Touching could be with any part of the body or with anything else. Sexual assault occurs when a person is forced, coerced or tricked into sexual acts against their will or without their consent, including when they have withdrawn consent.

Some examples of sexual assault could be, but is not limited to:

  • rape e.g. being forced to have vaginal, anal or oral sex including digital penetration
  • unwanted touching e.g. pinching, patting, embracing, rubbing, groping, flicking, kissing, fondling, being touched on the breasts, bottom, legs etc.
  • obscene gestures e.g. simulating masturbation in front of a person
  • pressuring for dates or demand for sex e.g. invitations that turn into threats or not taking 'no' for an answer
  • indecent exposure e.g. someone showing private parts of their body or 'flashing' their genitals.

Consent

Supporting someone who has disclosed sexual harm

If someone makes a disclosure of sexual harm to you, it is important that your initial response is appropriate and always victim survivor-centred. A person, after experiencing sexual harm, needs to be believed, feel safe, and be assured that it wasn’t their fault.

If someone makes a disclosure of sexual harm to you, part of your role is to support them to make informed decisions about their options for reporting and investigating the incident.

If you are unsure whether something constitutes sexual harassment or sexual assault or unsure of next steps, contact Deakin Safer Community for guidance.

Explore what to do and what not to do when someone makes a disclosure of sexual harm to you below.

What to do:

  • Be supportive, encouraging, open and honest.
  • Listen to the victim survivor’s story.
  • Let them express how they feel.
  • Respect their privacy.
  • Listen without judging them.
  • Do not worry or ask questions if their story doesn’t add up.
  • Inform them about support services and options for formal reporting.
  • Allow them to take control and make decisions that are in their best interest at the time.
  • If the sexual harm was recent:
    • consider preserving forensic evidence
    • remember that the person may report the matter to the police at any time.

What not to do:

  • Tell the person what to do or try to take over the situation.
  • Ask them ‘why’ questions like ‘Why were you there?’ and ‘Why did you trust the perpetrator?’
  • Get angry on their behalf.
  • Assume you know how they feel.

Notifying Safer Community of disclosures

The University supports the rights of students and staff to decide what information they disclose in response to instances of sexual harm, including whether to make a disclosure anonymously.

Staff that receive disclosures of sexual harm should support the student to contact us at Safer Community for support and advice. In the event the disclosing student does not wish to do that, the staff must refer to the matter to Safer Community as soon as practicable but may withhold the identity of the person making the disclosure and/or the other people involved, if that person does not wish their identify to be shared. We will not contact the person making the disclosure unless they give us permission to.

Contacting Safer Community will ensure that:

  1. the safety and welfare of the person has been met and that you have provided them with sufficient resources and referral information
  2. we can assess any potential harm or risks to all involved and/or university community and put in place support or protective measures to address those concerns
  3. you are supported as the first responder and have the opportunity to debrief.

Safer Community will handle all information and referrals in a sensitive nature and the person impacted will not be required, forced or obligated to be involved or participate in any formal processes such as investigation or disciplinary hearings.

There is also no obligation for students or staff to self-report their experience to Safer Community. They can make an anonymous disclosure if they wish via email, telephone or online form.

If a person making a disclosure wishes to remain anonymous, you can inform them that they:

  • can make an anonymous disclosure to Safer Community
  • will not be required, forced or obliged to be involved or participate in any formal process, such as investigations or disciplinary hearings
  • may choose not to identify the alleged perpetrator when disclosing sexual harm.

If you have experienced sexual harm

Sexual harm is misuse of power and violates personal boundaries. It is not your fault.

Every person's experience is different; you might be clear about your experience or struggling to name what happened to you.

After an incident of sexual harm, it is important to have options and make decisions within your own choice and capacity.

We are here to provide a safe, confidential and non-judgmental space to listen to you, offer support, talk through options you have and decisions you can take, if or when you choose.

We can help you report the incident if you want to. It is up to you to decide if, where and when you seek help.

You will be treated with kindness, care, compassion, respect, dignity and empathy.

We will handle all information and referrals in a sensitive nature and you will not be required, forced or obligated to be involved or participate in any formal processes such as investigation or disciplinary hearings.

Victims/survivors have the right to disclose incidents of sexual harm anonymously if they wish and may choose not to identify the alleged perpetrator when disclosing sexual harm; however, this may restrict the ability to assess and follow up on the incident.

Who will I talk to?

Safer Community is a Deakin service for sexual harm reporting and support. You will talk to caring and highly trained professionals, with experience in responding and providing support for sexual harm. People making a disclosure of sexual harm will:

  • be treated fairly, with dignity and respect
  • be believed
  • be helped to understand reporting and support options
  • be helped to be in control of processes and decisions
  • be supported in the way they want
  • have their privacy respected.

Your choice about reporting and next steps

It is your choice whether you choose to make a formal report. It is your choice what course of action you decide to take. We will respect and support your decision at every step of the way, even if/when your decisions change. Your wellbeing is our priority and we encourage you to make use of any and all of our free and confidential services if you feel comfortable doing so.

You can make a formal report to Safer Community at any time. If you are unsure about, or do not wish to make a formal report to the police or Deakin, the Safer Community team can still provide you with support, information and guidance about next steps, and where practicable, provide safety and security measures for you.

The kind of support you need can change over time. You may find that talking to family or friends is all you want, or you might be looking outside your usual networks. It is up to you to decide if, where and when you seek help.

You can make a formal report to the police at any time. If non-emergency police assistance is required, contact your nearest police station and ask to speak to a police officer from the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT). It is your choice whether you choose to make a formal report to the police.

You can also make a formal report to Student Conduct at Deakin and if you choose to do so, we can support you through the process.

What happens next?

Once a report is made to Safer Community via email or telephone, a trained staff member will be in contact with you usually within one business day.

A Safer Community staff member will explain what options are available to you, how they can help and what each option might look like. It’s up to you to decide which path is most appropriate for you.

Safer Community can:

  • be your ongoing contact point if you wish
  • assist you with a safety plan
  • facilitate, coordinate and refer you to the appropriate internal and external services
  • assist you (if you wish) with making a report to the police or Misconduct
  • implement protective measures.

Your information and further disclosures

The University manages personal information and health information in accordance with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic.).

Your information and disclosure are confidential and are stored safely and securely. Victim survivors may ask to remain anonymous and can choose to not disclose the names of others relative to the report.

There may be circumstances where we need to disclose information to other members of the University or external agencies. However, we will aim discuss this with you first and determine what and how much information should be provided to others.

When we may need to make further disclosures

  • Where we believe you or a member of the University community is in danger.
  • When a minor (under 18 years of age) is involved.
  • To assist you in making safety plans.
  • To arrange support for you, for example, special consideration or extension for an assessment. In most cases, only very limited details are required for this.
  • When the state or federal law requires us to do so.

Can I report anonymously?

You can report anonymously. However, this may restrict our ability to assess and follow up on the incident, as well as report back to you on the outcome.

Under 18 years of age?

If you are under the age of 18 and report a sexual assault, Deakin is legally obliged to make a report to the police. Please refer to our Child Safety Standards for further information.

Alleged person of concern

If you have had an allegation made against you regarding a behaviour of concern, please speak with us. You will be:

  • treated fairly, with dignity and respect
  • heard with compassion, not judgement or blame
  • informed of support options, relevant processes and assistance available to you
  • offered support by a Safer Community Advisor different to the Advisor supporting other parties involved.

Ongoing support

Our primary concern is your immediate and ongoing wellbeing. Regardless of whether you choose to make a formal report or not, Deakin offers the following free and confidential services to students and staff:

Make a report

Report to Deakin

At Deakin, we provide a safe and respectful learning and working environment. Student and staff safety and wellbeing is our highest priority. If you, or someone you know has a concern, we’re here to support you.

Safer Community is the central point of contact for Deakin-based sexual harm reporting and support. To access support or report sexual harm (recent or historical, and either on or off campus) you can contact us in the following ways:

Emails to this address are only read by the Safer Community team. All assistance is confidential.

Please note, reporting an incident of sexual assault or sexual harassment, will not impact a person’s enrolment or student visa.

For immediate assistance on campus outside of these hours please call Deakin Security (24/7) on 1800 062 579.

Report outside Deakin

Unless you are under the age of 18, only you can make a decision about reporting a sexual harm to police. The below services can help you with safety concerns and talk to you about options such as counselling and accessing other services outside of Deakin.

Sexual harm statistics

Unfortunately sexual harm is a common experience.  Approximately one in five women (18% or 1.7 million) has experienced sexual violence. Source: 2016 Personal Safety Survey (ABS, 2017)

More statistics on sexual harm in Victoria can be found on the Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) website.

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