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2023 Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Published: 18th April 2023

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it is important our community is aware of the resources and supports available to them.

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Murdoch University is committed to ensuring our community is free from sexual harm and take our role in making sure our university spaces are safe, respectful places to study and work seriously. We take a trauma-informed approach, which is reflected in our Sexual Harm Policy.

National findings from the National Student Safety Survey

In 2021, Universities Australia conducted a survey to collect data on the scale and nature of student experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault with results informing universities on the needs of the community. National findings include:

  • Sexual harm remains a gendered issue with males being the primary perpetrators of the actions.
  • Bystander intervention is important with 54.8% of students doing something about the most recent incident they had witnessed.
  • Students broadly requested better promotion of support and disclosure processes, more education and awareness campaigns, increased transparency about disciplinary actions, cultural change to promote respect and safety, and development of peer support groups.

What does this mean for Murdoch?

Murdoch University remains committed to addressing sexual harm on campus. Here are a few of the things we are doing in 2023:

  • Reviewing our Sexual Harm policies and procedures.
  • Increasing our offerings of Bystander Intervention Training to staff and students.
  • Increasing awareness of what supports are available on campus and how to access them.
  • Providing students with information on where to disclose or report an incident.

What does this mean for you?

Murdoch University is built on relationships. Respectful relationships with each other enhance your experience and success as a student. We foster an environment that encompasses ‘respect for everyone’. We want respect to be at the centre of every interaction on campus, which requires a commitment to a high standard of behaviour from everyone at Murdoch.

The Student Code of Conduct highlights that students are expected to act responsibly and in the best interests of all students attending the University. While our policies and procedures are a strong indicator of our values and how we ensure they are upheld, respect starts off paper with every interaction you have. Student safety is all of our responsibility. Respect is all of our responsibility. Consent is all of our responsibility.

Consent is saying “Yes”

The importance of informed consent is a strong theme from the National Student Safety Survey.

Consent is when both partners enthusiastically agree to any sexual act. This includes kissing, touching, foreplay and sexual intercourse. Don’t assume that silence means “yes”. Always ask first. The only way to know if someone wants to continue is to ask and get an informed and enthusiastic “yes”.

Consent is an ongoing conversation that builds trust and respect. This includes questions to your partner, like “is it okay for us to try this?” or asking your partner things like “what would you most enjoy?” Informed consent means the person is not impaired, or coerced into making the decision. Prioritising consent is key to ensuring everyone involved feels safe, listened to, and respected.

If you have any questions around consent and healthy relationships, you can book a free appointment to speak to a nurse and the Murdoch University Medical Service or one of the counsellors at the Murdoch University Counselling Service.

Where to disclose sexual harm

Any member of the Murdoch community can make a disclosure of an incident of sexual harm to a qualified Sexual Harm Support Officer (SHSO), including anyone who has experienced sexual harm, witnessed sexual harm, or had an incident of sexual harm disclosed to them.

Making a disclosure is not the same as making a formal report and can be done anonymously. 

Our SHSO’s are here to help you access specialist services, make a report, and understand University processes. You can email them to request a phone call or face-to-face appointment.

When you fill out a disclosure form, the incident will go through to a SHSO to review and consider actions to make Murdoch a safer space. Where contact details are provided, the SHSO can also provide information and advice around next steps and getting support.

All disclosures are confidential and taken seriously. If you are unsure whether you have experienced sexual harm, please still get in contact. Our SHSOs are here to support in all circumstances.

MurdochSafe app

The MurdochSafe app has a range of functions and resources including:

  • Internal and external support services.
  • A safety tool kit.
  • Disclosure form.
  • Safety and emergency information.

Through the MurdochSafe app, you can disclose any type of harassment, bullying, discrimination or assault to the University. You can make an anonymous disclosure if you wish to, and you can make a disclosure as a bystander (third party). Disclosures through the app will be picked up by our SHSOs and the same process is followed as described above.

Additional information and resources.

On-campus and off-campus support services

There are a wide variety of community and Murdoch University-specific support services available to support you, or the people you know, if you experience or witness sexual harm, assault or harassment. Remember, you are not alone and will be supported.

On campus support services

On campus, the Murdoch University Medical Service and Counselling Service provide a range of services for students and staff. Both services can usually offer appointments within two working days and the Medical Service provides walk-in appointments with the University nurse for urgent situations.

The Medical Service is located in Building 418.1 (under the Tavern) and can be contacted by phone (9360 2293) or email. They are open from 8:30am-4:30pm, Monday to Friday.

The Counselling Service is located in Building 440.1.044 and operates from 8:30am-4:30pm, Monday to Friday. Enrolled Murdoch students are entitled to six free sessions per year and can get in touch by phone (9360 1227) or email.

Off campus 24-hour support services

Bystander intervention strategies

Bystander intervention helps to create a safe and respectful community. It includes things like communicating your disapproval to someone’s behaviour or language, supporting someone to stop this behaviour, or making a disclosure.

If you witness an incident of discrimination, harassment, or abuse (including harmful comments, or jokes), say something. We recommend the below techniques to intervene.

Direct strategies to safely intervene

  • Respond to harassment by naming what is happening or confronting the person about what they are saying or doing.
  • Use “I” statements to call out the negative behaviour and express why it makes you uncomfortable. For example, “I feel uncomfortable when you make those jokes.”
  • Derail the incident by interrupting it. Talk about something completely unrelated.
  • Pretend you know the targeted person (to distract).
  • Publicly support the targeted person by asking if they are alright or would like to leave the situation. Offer to walk them to a space on campus where they feel safe. If they aren't sure where to go, students can use The Den as a safe space or even use the Counselling Service reception without an appointment.

Indirect strategies to safely intervene

  • Get help from a third party. For example, contact Security, a staff member or Police for assistance or to notify them of an incident.
  • Privately support the targeted person. For example, ask the targeted person if they are ok after the incident and what you can do to help support them. Continue to check in with them, sometimes people may feel distressed days or even weeks after an event.
  • Help them disclose or report the incident and/or link them with support services.
  • Use the disclosure form / MurdochSafe app to let the University know what you have witnessed.

Throughout the year, we run Bystander Intervention training workshops for MSP200 (SPINE units) where you can develop your skills, and bespoke sessions via The Den. To find out more, email the Access, Wellbeing and Equity team.