'Disturbing picture' of sexual harassment at Australian universities

 A general view of Sydney University campus on April 6, 2016.

Story highlights

  • Some 30,000 students were surveyed in national report
  • 'We must and we will do better,' one university official said

(CNN)A landmark report detailing sexual harassment and assault at Australia's universities found that more than half of all students have been harassed.

The report, based on a survey of more than 30,000 students across 39 universities, painted a "disturbing picture" of sexual assault and harassment faced by students, said Kate Jenkins, the sex discrimination commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission.
    Some 51% said they were sexually harassed in 2015 or 2016 and about 7% of university students were sexually assaulted at least once in the same time frame, the report found.
      Of those who faced sexual harassment, one in five said it took place "at a university setting" in 2016.
      The report made nine recommendations to Australia's universities, including evaluating the processes students use to report assault and harassment and efforts to change attitudes and behavior.
        "Sexual assault and harassment have no place in Australian universities, just as they have no place anywhere in Australia," said Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education.
        The report's definition of sexual harassment included: staring or leering; insults of a sexual nature; displaying posters of a sexual nature; sending sexually explicit messages; and requests for sex or repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates, among other things.
        "We must and we will do better," said Professor Brian Schmidt, the vice-chancellor of the Australian National University.

        'Too prevalent'

        Jenkins said the report contained three important findings: that sexual assault and harassment are "far too prevalent in university settings," that the problem is under reported and that universities need to do more to stymie it.
        Other countries have drawn similar conclusions when it comes to the issue of sexual assault and harassment on campus, though the numbers may differ per country.
        A groundbreaking 2015 study by the Association of American Universities (AAU) found that 23% of women said they experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact -- ranging from kissing to touching to rape, carried out by force or threat of force, or while they were incapacitated because of alcohol and drugs. Nearly 11% said the unwanted contact included penetration or oral sex.
        A 2016 report by the Universities UK said "on sexual violence explicitly, there is no comprehensive data available to indicate how many UK university students are affected by such incidents," but the British media have tried to uncover the scope of the issue. The Telegraph reported in 2015 that as many as one in three women may be abused or assaulted on campus.