As many as 32 per cent of women at University of Sydney colleges have experienced sexual harassment and 6 per cent of female college students have experienced actual or attempted sexual assault, with other college students making up the vast majority of perpetrators, a review of college culture has found.
The review, led by former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, found that sexual misconduct, “hazing” and a problematic drinking culture persist at five of the university’s six residential colleges, a number of which have come under fire for repeated incidents of sexual misbehaviour by students.
More than 1000 students from Sydney University’s Sancta Sophia, St Andrew’s, St John’s, Wesley and Women’s colleges were surveyed by Ms Broderick’s team and more than 630 students were interviewed since October last year, with a 69 per cent participation rate across the five colleges.
Female students described experiences with sexualised attitudes and behaviours, often fuelled by alcohol, which made them feel unsafe or uncomfortable, with one saying she was left “feeling objectified, like a piece of meat on display”.
St Paul’s College, which initially refused to participate in the review but recently joined the process, is not included in the findings and will receive a separate report in June next year.
Female students from St Andrew’s College and Women’s College reported some of the highest rates of sexual harassment and actual or attempted sexual assault, with 32 per cent of students at Women’s College and 30 per cent of women at St Andrew’s College saying they have experienced sexual harassment since starting at college.
At both colleges, 8 per cent of women said they have experienced actual or attempted sexual assault.
“The data is compelling,” Ms Broderick said.
“Our evidence found that for women in particular, the college experience can be quite different to that of their male peers.
“This was evident across many data points including experiencing exclusion or isolation, pressure to drink alcohol, sexist remarks, the pressure to have sex or hook up to fit in, experiences of sexual harassment and of sexual assault.”
Across all five colleges, 25 per cent of women and 6 per cent of men said they have experienced sexual harassment and 6 per cent of women and 1 per cent of men said they have experienced actual or attempted sexual assault.
Of these, 96 per cent of students who experienced sexual harassment and 73 per cent of students who experienced sexual assault said a fellow student from their college or a different college was the perpetrator.
About 90 per cent of all incidents occurred on college grounds.
– Pallavi Singhal, Kishor Napier-Raman
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