Support for students impacted by sexual assault and/or sexual harassment - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Support for students impacted by sexual assault and/or sexual harassment

There is no greater priority than the safety and security of our students, staff and community. If you have been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed, we encourage you to talk to the University and the police.

Sexual assault is never your fault. If you believe this has happened to you, it doesn't matter when it happened, whether it occurred on campus, at a University event, during a placement, or in your personal life away from the University – support is always available.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault occurs in many forms. It is ANY unwanted or forced sexual act or behaviour without your informed consent. Sexual assault includes unsolicited attention, harassment or suggestions of a sexual nature.

Lack of informed consent occurs when the person being victimised is considered incapable of giving that consent due to:

  • The influence of drugs or alcohol—drink spiking or just enjoying one too many drinks.
  • Having been rendered unconscious due to a violent act towards them.
  • Is suffering fear paralysis due to the shock of the assault.
  • Being too fearful to resist the assault for fear of further harm or being killed or is fearful of future harassment or derogatory remarks being made to family, colleagues or being placed on Facebook or other social media.
  • Being outnumbered by the number of perpetrators.
  • Suffering from a health or medical condition which does not allow the person to understand the sexual behaviour being exhibited towards them.

Sexual assault is not the same as sexual expression. Sexual assault is unwanted sexual behaviour or acts that use intimidation, coercion or force to exercise power or deny someone's right to choose. Sexual assault and abuse can be one-off events, or part of a pattern of violence. It has a range of effects, including physical, emotional and psychological effects. View the Queensland laws around sex and sexual offences.

Copyright 2015 Emmeline May (rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com) and Blue Seat Studios Used with permission by Queensland Sexual Assault Network.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unsolicited, unwelcome and unreciprocated behaviour, act or conduct of a sexual nature that embarrasses, humiliates or offends other persons. It can be a single incident or a persistent pattern and can range from subtle behaviour to explicit demands for sexual activity or even criminal assault.

Some examples of sexual harassment include:

  • inappropriate jokes or comments with sexual connotations,
  • the display of offensive material,
  • stares and leers or offensive hand or body gestures,
  • comments and questions about another person's sexual conduct and/or private relationships,
  • persistent unwelcome invitations,
  • requests for sexual favours,
  • offensive written, telephone or electronic mail or other computer system communications,
  • unnecessary close physical proximity including persistently following a person,
  • unwelcome physical contact such as brushing against or touching a person,
  • denigrating comments regarding a person's gender or sexual preference, or
  • negative behaviours, for example, intimidation or exclusions related to the sex of the recipient.
Where can I go for support?

If you have just experienced a sexual assault or are in immediate danger

  • Get to a safe place
  • Phone the Police on 000 (Triple Zero)
  • If on USC campus grounds, call the SafeUSC team on 07 5430 1168 (24/7)
For Supports/Safety measure/Reporting

Contact the SafeUSC Specialist Service.

Counselling

Student Wellbeing Counselling Service: free and confidential counselling and psychological services. Please call 07 5430 1226 to make an appointment book or through the Student Hub.

Off campus

Reporting

Community Supports

Additional support services include:

What happens when I tell USC about my experience?

It is important to know that you can seek support and tell us about an incident without making a formal complaint.

When you contact us, we will arrange for you to speak with a qualified and specialist sexual assault worker who will:

  1. Talk to you about what your experience has been. You do not have to provide any information or details that you do not feel comfortable discussing.
  2. Ensure that you are safe.
  3. Discuss the immediate supports you require, including campus safety planning and academic adjustments.
  4. Let you know the supports available to you at USC and in the community
  5. Talk to you about what you would like to happen next.
  6. Explain your options for resolution, including informal steps or making a formal complaint.
  7. Support you to report the matter to police, if you would like to.

When you let us know about an incident, we must:

  • Provide the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Students) with a confidential report about the incident and the supports that have been arranged.
  • Report any staff misconduct you disclose to the Director of Human Resources.

All attempts will be made to ensure you do not need to repeat your story to multiple staff members to ensure the least traumatic experience when speaking about it.

When is the University required to speak to the police or undertake an action?

Only in exceptional circumstances does the University speak to an external agency about an alleged crime without your prior consent (eg when a disclosure is against a staff member, or if the information is necessary to protect you or others from harm, or to prevent a further crime taking place).

All information associated with investigations and outcomes associated with allegations of sexual harassment/misconduct are treated as confidential and not released to any third party or external agency unless required by law or you expressly consent to its release in writing.

What will happen if I make a formal complaint to USC?

Sexual assault or harassment is never acceptable, and we are here to support you if this occurs. The above section 'What happens when I tell USC about my experience?' outlines how we will support you when you make a disclosure to USC. A disclosure is different to a formal complaint – the complaint process is detailed below.

If you choose to make a complaint, the SafeUSC Specialist Service will support you with this process. We understand making a complaint can be difficult or overwhelming. We will work with you throughout the process to ensure you feel safe and supported.

If you would like an investigation to occur, or for there to be formal action taken against the accused, a formal complaint process is required. (Please note: you do not need to make a formal complaint to be provided with reasonable adjustments, confidential support and counselling, or safety planning).

When you make a formal complaint, you will be asked to complete a statement about your experience. We can provide some support to help complete the statement. We understand talking or writing about your experience can be difficult, we will do everything we can to ensure you don’t have to repeat your story.

​Your complaint will be provided to the Office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Students), where a decision will be made about the best way to manage your complaint. If the complaint is about a staff member, the USC Human Resources team is required to manage those matters, and the information about your matter will be provided to a senior member of the HR team.​

Once the complaint has been received:

  • You will be provided with support and updated throughout the process.
  • An initial review of the matter will take place within 10 business days of receiving the complaint.
  • The Pro-Vice Chancellor (Students) will determine if an investigation should take place under the Student Misconduct Procedures.
  • If the matter relates to a staff member it will be managed as per the USC Staff Code of Conduct and Enterprise Agreement.
  • The accused may be provided a copy of your statement or provided with details to respond to. We will make sure you are advised prior to this occurring.
  • The student who has been accused of misconduct will be invited to attend an interview, they are not obligated to attend.
  • You may be asked to participate in an interview if further information is required. You can be accompanied at the interview by a support person.
  • If the matter is heard at a General Misconduct Panel hearing. The accused person will have the opportunity to ask questions (through the Chairperson)*, these might be directed towards you. You have the option to attend in person. If you do not attend in person, you will be required to respond to any questions.
  • Once the necessary information has been gathered and considered, you will be provided with the outcome.

If the accused is a student and they are found to have engaged in misconduct, the University can apply educational or remedial actions or impose penalties as per Section 6 of the Student Misconduct Procedures.

If the accused is a staff member and they are found to have engaged in misconduct, the University can undertake disciplinary action as per Section 5.7 of the Enterprise Agreement.

If you would like more information or support to understand this process, you can contact the SafeUSC Specialist Service to have a confidential conversation.

*Questions asked "through the Chairperson" means that the question being asked will be considered, and if the question is inappropriate or does not relate to the matters being discussed, the Chairperson will not ask that question. This process is in place to protect the complainant and to ensure the tone and intent of questions asked are in the spirit of the purpose of the hearing.

I want information about reporting my concerns to the Police

What are my options for reporting to Police?

 You can make a report to police about a recent incident, or something that happened some time ago – there are no time limitations on reporting your concerns.

 If you need support to report your concerns to Police, you can make an appointment to speak with someone from the SafeUSC Specialist Service. This service can talk you through the options available for you, and arrange any supports you may need whilst going through this process. If you prefer, we may be able to support you to meet with Police on campus and organise any special arrangements (such as a female officer or an interpreter). When you first talk to Police about your concerns it does not mean that you are making a complaint that will be investigated, it is your choice if you would like this to happen or not.

If the incident is occurring right now and you are concerned for the safety of yourself or others, you should contact 000. If you require immediate security support on campus, you can also contact SafeUSC Security on 5430 1168, or us the SafeZone App.

You can make a report to Police using the online form available on their website. You can also contact Policelink (if the matter is non-urgent, for example, if you are safe and the offender is no longer in the area) or go to your local Police station for advice.

Important note: If you have just experienced a sexual assault and are unsure if you would like to make a report, you can attend a hospital and request to have a ‘just in case’ medical examination. This can allow you to take some further time to make a decision about whether you want to make a complaint, whilst ensuring any necessary evidence is obtained. We understand that this process may be daunting, if you need someone to talk to you can call the Queensland Sexual Assault Helpline (7:30am – 11:30pm) on 1800 010 120.

Can I provide information about my experience to Police without making a formal report?

There are many reasons why people choose not to make a formal report about their experience. Your reasons are personal to you and you should not feel pressured to make this decision. It is important to know that you have options to notify Police about your experience without making a formal report.

 This is called Alternative Reporting Options (ARO). There are no judicial processes involved in ARO reporting. Police might use the information you provide to support them to target their community responses to reduce re-offending. With ARO reporting you can choose to remain anonymous and request not to be contacted. If you do choose to remain anonymous, the information provided cannot be used in any judicial proceedings. Many victim/survivors of sexual assault find that this kind of reporting can be empowering. You can find the online ARO form here.

How can I get involved?

Want to get involved in USC or other initiatives to address sexual violence. Here are some resources and campaigns you may be interested in: