Nine reports of sexual assault, harassment in past week alone at UNSW

Nine reports of sexual assault and harassment at the University of NSW has been made in the past week, compared to a total of three sexual assaults being reported between 2011 and 2016.

The influx of reporting is through a new online portal introduced by UNSW ahead of Tuesday's release of a landmark report that found 94 per cent of sexual harassments and 87 per cent of sexual assaults that occurred at Australian universities were not reported.

Many of the country's 39 universities have released plans to improve facilities in place to prevent and respond to cases of sexual harassment and assault following the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission report.

The report, based on a survey of 31,000 students, found that 21 per cent experienced sexual harassment in a university setting last year.

About 60 per cent of students did not know where to go to formally report or make a complaint about sexual assault or harassment.

The University of Sydney, which has recently come under fire for repeated incidents of sexual misbehaviour at its residential colleges, said it has "made refinements to reporting and escalation protocols at all University-owned accommodation".

This includes training for senior students at colleges in intervening or responding to cases of sexual assault of harassment, an update of protocols on how and to whom they can report incidents at all hours and mandatory inductions for all students entering colleges.

"Attitudinal change and greater awareness is needed not only among university students, but also university staff who receive reports and disclosures of these behaviours," Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said.

Zara*, who has experienced several incidents of sexual harassment at a Sydney university and had a friend come to her after being sexually assaulted last month, said there was "absolutely nothing" in place to help them.

"There was no sexual assault counsellor," she said.

"I had a lecturer who didn't believe me and I had to get a second doctor's certificate to say it really had affected me. Out of about eight lecturers, only one offered to remove the perpetrator if myself or anyone involved was uncomfortable."

Zara* said she hoped the new report would push universities to take more action.

"Universities care more about plagiarism at the moment, there's a bigger response around expelling perpetrators of that than of sexual assault," she said.

"This report has finally cracked it open, it speaks volumes about how much universities invest in making their students feel safe."

*Names have been changed.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. In an emergency contact 000.

Universities Australia has also established a new university dedicated counselling hotline on 1800 572 224.

This story Nine reports of sexual assault, harassment in past week alone at UNSW first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.