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Preventing and responding to sexual harassment and sexual assault

A proactive health and safety duty

Universities need to continue building student confidence while enabling their organisational leaders to make risk-based decisions that prevent and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Deloitte’s team of health and safety experts and higher education industry leaders assist universities to understand the risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment in their environment. We are able to develop risk-based processes, programs, and training to enable prevention and response to manage the risk to staff, students, and others.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian Universities (the AHRC report) was released on 1 August 2017. The AHRC report aimed to gain greater insight into the nature, prevalence, and reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. Each of Australia’s 39 universities, through their peak body Universities Australia (UA), committed to this work and other programs (e.g. the Respect. Now. Always. campaign) in an attempt to understand and mitigate the risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The AHRC report found 26% of the 30,930 respondents to the survey question relating to sexual harassment prevalence had been sexually harassed at university in 2016. 1.6% of the 28,281 respondents to the survey question relating to sexual assaults prevalence had been sexually assaulted in 2015 or 2016.

While the issue of prevalence has been largely tackled through the work conducted by the AHRC, we know from our work that universities can improve how they deal with issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment.. Our independent research into how universities have defined sexual assault and sexual harassment indicates vast inconsistencies and approaches across the sector.

Recommendation 4 of the AHRC’s report suggested that each university should commission an independent, expert-led review of existing university policies and response pathways in relation to sexual assault and harassment. We can assist universities by examining their current operations to enable proactive, simple and, risk-based processes and systems to be implemented. These processes and systems aim at providing support to students, staff, and others, whilst providing organisational leaders with confidence and risk-based information to make informed decisions on how to act.

Deloitte thanks and acknowledges those who have shared their experiences as part of this important piece of work. We are committed to assisting the higher education sector where we can to reduce the risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

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