An American anti-rape group is targeting Australian universities
Jun 07, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
The American End Rape on Campus group has established an Australian branch to support local students and make universities more accountable for their responses to sexual assault claims.
The move follows the launch just five months ago of the sector’s own Respect. Now. Always campaign, designed to prevent sexual assault and harassment by raise awareness among students and staff and providing clear pathways of support.
Respect. Now. Always is supported by all Australian universities and coordinated through Universities Australia, with UA Professor Ian Jacobs describing it as "the first (campaign) in the world where a national university sector has decided to work together on these issues on such a scale.”
But EROC in Australia founder Sharna Bremner says the new advocacy group is different because it offers “peer-level support that students can relate to, people are the same age and they can really understand exactly what they're going through”.
She says many local students are still unaware that universities have codes of conduct designed to protect them on campus - even if Australia does not go as far as the US in providing legal protection against discriminatory harassment on campus.
A recent National Union of Students survey showed a quarter of Australian students reported unwanted sexual experiences last year, but 94 per cent did not report the incident to university authorities, and 95 per cent did not report it to the police.
The Hunting Ground, a documentary about sexual assaults on college campuses in the US, has been widely screened at universities around Australia in an attempt to educate students about the threat.
Ms Bremner said that despite prompting numerous students to come forward with their experiences, the screenings had left many others with the impression that sexual assaults were not an Australian problem.
“People are under the impression that it only happens in the US, the general response is that we don’t have fraternities,” she told Daily Mail Australia.
“But we do have residential colleges, and the systems in place in those are very similar to fraternities.
“It's not a coincidence when I get students in Perth, Wollongong, Cairns, Sydney telling me similar stories about universities or staff they reported incidents to and how they responded.”
EROC has launched legal actions against several universities in America, alleging they have broken the law through their botched handling of sexual assault complaints.