Students Stand in Solidarity with Victims of Sexual Assault

2 August 2017

Content Warning: Mention of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Close to 100 University of Melbourne students lit candles and wrote chalk messages in support of those affected by sexual assault and harassment last night on Union Lawn.

The candlelight vigil was held by the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU), and allowed students to stand in solidarity with those affected by these crimes on-campus.

The vigil also aimed to commemorate those who have suffered in the process of speaking out about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment.

The vigil was a response to the release of a landmark report into sexual assault and harassment on University campuses across the country.

The results revealed 1.6 per cent of students were sexually assaulted in a University setting in 2015 and 2016.

Indigenous students, women, those with a disability and those within the LGBTI community were more likely to experience harassment or assault.

UMSU Women’s Office Bearer, Hannah Billett said it was a night to “decompress and to be surrounded by friends and friendly strangers” after what was a difficult day for many.

“We decided that something peaceful and beautiful like a vigil was appropriate, because we felt we needed some time of silence to acknowledge the pain and suffering of victims, both those who survived their abuse and assault and those who did not.”

The night saw speeches from UMSU Indigenous Office Bearer, Marley Holloway-Clarke and UMSU President, Yan Zhuang.

Holloway-Clarke gave an acknowledgement to country and spoke about the horrific rates of sexual assault in Indigenous communities.

“We stand with everyone who has been told that their experiences are not valid, that they should have ‘fought back harder’ or that know their perpetrator still walks on the same campus as them,” said Zhuang.

“A lot of the time we do not know that someone close to us has been affected by sexual violence. To everyone who has been affected by these results, we stand with you.”

Billett and Zhuang assure there will be time in the coming weeks for discussion and plans for the way forward from these results.

If you or someone you know requires counselling or support, a national support line is open on 1800 572 224.

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