A damning report into the “sickening” culture of sexual violence at Australian universities was released this week.
The Red Zone Report, from End Rape on Campus Australia, details decades of history of sexual assault, hazing rituals, and bullying in Australian universities, particularly those with residential colleges.
The 203-page report focuses on 12 universities, including the Group of Eight universities.
Page after page covers all levels of abuse and assault, rape, a culture of excessive drinking, racism and homophobia, and entrenched misogyny.
As the decades changed, the “toxic” behaviour was passed down from class to class, growing with the advent of technology.
The report notes the contributors to the accepted mores is backed up through wealth and privilege, a hierarchy of senior students, and family lineage, particularly through male students.
Many of the universities or campuses referenced have only been co-educational for a few decades. Some students interviewed for the report say they believe it will take “several generations for women to be on equal footing”.
A highlight of the report, and the basis of its title, is Orientation Week. A week that is meant to be for orientation, familiarisation and an introduction to the university, for new students, is often hijacked by extreme hazing rituals and assault.
Sexual assault services have noted an increase in reports and requests for help during and immediately after O Weeks.
Mainly, the report draws on examples and interviews from incidents that allegedly occurred at University of Sydney campuses. The University of Tasmania is not referenced in the paper.
The report states that these issues were not confined to the universities referenced, but could be found across Australia.
Last year, the Australian Human Rights Commission undertook a survey into sexual assault and harassment at the nation’s universities. It found varying degrees of sexual assault and harassment occurred across “most areas of university life”.
Individual universities, including UTAS, have implemented campaigns and projects to stamp out such behaviours.
But it is clear, with the second report in as many years telling us that our students are being put in danger and are being exploited, a deep level of action is required. And now.