Whether it’s in the Catholic Church or the university, sexual abuse is very much in the spotlight at the moment. Royal commissions, extensive research projects and last year’s nation-wide survey of sexual abuse in Australian universities signal an important shift in society’s attitude towards both the victims and perpetrators of assault. In spite of the increased awareness of sexual abuse in institutions and the home environment, many survivors of rape, harassment or other forms of assault are shamed into silence.
Sexual abuse is a kind of physical assault unlike anything else. Other physical attacks might mark the body with bruises, broken bones and scars but acts of sexual abuse maim the most intimate parts of the body and soul. It is for this reason that survivors of this form of abuse often struggle with the consequences of the attack/s long after the danger has passed or the offender has been brought to justice.
Although some people groups are more at risk of encountering abuse than others, it really could happen to anyone at anytime. That’s why it is important that we increase our understanding of why and how sexual abuse occurs (especially in institutional settings) so that we might be better equipped to prevent these attacks from happening as well as better support survivors of abuse.
The Australian Human Rights Commission will release a national report outlining the results of the survey into the prevalence of sexual abuse or harassment in universities on 1st August, 2017. The report will also include the recommendations for each of the 39 participating universities, with each institution already agreeing to make the results of their schools’ survey public.
While the report is regarded as a necessary step in better protecting Australia’s university students from abuse, the details contained in the report will be inherently challenging, especially for those who have experienced similar forms of assault. Universities Australia will operate an interim support line that anyone can access at anytime between 31st July and 30th November 2017.
I can’t say that I have personally been affected by sexual abuse but I can say that if you have, there are people who are there to listen to your story and soothe you anguish.
Perhaps today will be the day you reach out.
National University Support Line: Call 1800 572 224 (Available 24 hours, 7 days a week)
On campus support for Notre Dame students:
Campus Security – 0438 923 955 (Fremantle)
Sexual Assault Resource Centre (24 hours) – 1800 199 888
Student Safety and Support Website: http://www.nd.edu.au/university/projects/wellbeing-safety-and-support