Rise in Sexual Misconduct Reports to the University

16 July 2019

Content warning: sexual assault

Sexual misconduct allegations have risen from eight in 2017 to 23 in 2018, according to documents released by the University of Melbourne.

The documents, which include both responses to requests made within and outside the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), shed light on how the University has disciplined students accused of sexual assault and harassment.

The University has received 82 allegations of sexual misconduct in the last six years, according to two documents released outside of the FOI request, one of which covered September 2013-17, and another covering September 2017-18. The figures are based on the number of allegations received by two bodies: the Security and Transport Division and the University’s Safer Community Program and do not include reports made to affiliated colleges.

The University of Melbourne defines sexual assault as “contact sexual offending – that is sexual offending which involved physical touch. This category includes rape and unwanted touching of any other parts of the body generally associated with sexualised behaviour (e.g. breasts, vagina, penis, buttocks, mouth)”.

The majority of sexual assaults on campus are not reported to the University. 1.5 per cent of students surveyed by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Change the Course project in 2017 said they were raped at university between 2015-17, yet only 0.003 per cent of students reported to the University over the same period.

Of the 23 allegations made in 2018, one case of sexual assault and one of sexual harassment were investigated by the University.

The two allegations received in 2018 were heard through the University’s Student Discipline Process according to one document obtained through FOI request filed by Farrago. An additional FOI containing notes from University Disciplinary Committee meetings revealed the penalties issued against the perpetrators. For the student whose allegation of sexual assault was upheld, their perpetrator was issued with:

  • “A reprimand”
  • A direction to “avoid contacting” the victim of the assault during their “remaining time at the University.”
  • A direction to complete the “2018 Consent Matters online training, titled “Understand Student Conduct Expectations”
  • A suspension for an undisclosed amount of time

For another student whose allegation of sexual harassment was upheld, their perpetrator was issued with the same, without any suspension, but with a direction to “meet with staff of the Safer Community Program at the beginning of each semester”.

A total of one allegation of sexual assault was heard by the University in 2016 and another singular allegation heard in 2017, according to Farrago‘s second FOI.

A summary of the cases outlines the students were “suspended pending police investigations”.

Former Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis wrote to the accused perpetrators, “It has been brought to my attention that an allegation of a high-risk misconduct has been made regarding your conduct… The University understands these allegations have not yet been investigated by the appropriate authorities… I have suspended your enrolment at the University of Melbourne until the legal proceedings initiated by the police have concluded.”

Another letter was sent at an undisclosed, later date by the Chair of the Disciplinary Committee to the student alleged to have committed sexual assault in 2017, informing them that “the Committee dismisses the allegations made against you”.

“The Student Discipline Committee considered your written submission made prior to the Committee meeting as well as the information provided by you in person to the Committee… The Committee unanimously agreed that your actions were not in breach the Student Conduct Policy.”

The outcome of the 2016 investigation is unknown.

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