A new study claims that universities in Australia have been actively covering up cases of sexual assaults. According to advocacy group End Rape on Campus Australia, there have been 500 cases of sexual assault in the last five years but only six got expelled.
The group says that 145 of those cases were related to rape. During the same time, 153 sexual assaults were also reported to the police from universities in Victoria, WA, NSW and the ACT.
The report shows that students have reported areas designated for sex. Others have also stated that in one university, male college students would knock on the rooms of female students and opening the door automatically means consent, a practice known as rock spidering, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
In another instance, an international student was forced to have anal sex with a group of male students. These male students apparently chanted “no means yes and yes means anal.”
“Such a report needs to be written at all speaks volumes about how comprehensively many of our universities are failing their students,” states Macquarie University professor Catharine Lumby. “Too often, our universities have dealt with sexual assault and harassment of students by turning a blind eye, by claiming it is not their responsibility or, most shamefully, by actively covering up assaults.”
However, it has been revealed that the punishment for sexual assault is too lenient. In the University of England, suspects were only fined $55 and eight hours of community service as well as an apology letter.
The university’s vice-chancellor said that old policies limited the punishment. According to Lumby, such policies are consistent in Australia’s tertiary sector.
The report also shows that universities usually blame the media coverage of sexual assaults. In one case, Shirley Alexander, the deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Technology, criticized the media last year, tweeting: “Penalties for sexual assault are determined by the criminal justice system, not universities!”
On the other hand, Michael Salter, a senior lecturer in criminology at Western Sydney University, explained that universities are responsible for handling sexual assault cases inside their campuses. Victims of the crime would most likely feel betrayed and they are at risk of developing long-term mental health problems.
The researchers say that the issue has been going on for decades. Unlike what some may believe, shedding light on this important topic is not political correctness gone mad, pointed out study author Sharna Bremner.