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AHRC University Sexual Assault & Harassment Project FAQs

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The Australian Human Rights Commission is undertaking a project on sexual assault and sexual harassment of university students. This work includes:

  • a national university student survey on sexual assault and sexual harassment; and
  • an open call for submissions on sexual assault and sexual harassment at university

The online submission portal can be found here: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/submissions-sexual-assault-and-sexual-harassment-university

To assist survivors, students, staff and other stakeholders who are considering making a submission, End Rape on Campus Australia, in conjunction with sexual assault advocate Nina Funnell, have prepared the following  "Frequently Asked Questions" guide:

1. Are individuals eligible to participate if they aren’t a currently enrolled student?

Yes. There has been considerable confusion about this issue, due to the ambiguous wording of some questions, but any individual can make a submission irrespective of their enrolment status. You can make a submission Irrespective of when your assault occurred, including if it happened many, many years ago.

2. Are organisations eligible to participate?

Yes. While earlier wording of the submission portal suggested that only private individuals could make a submission, any organisation, agency or service can also make a submission.

3. Can I help someone make a submission?

Yes. Some survivors may want assistance in writing up a submission. This is appropriate and can be done. Remember that hearing another person’s story can be distressing and you may want to debrief with a 1800 Respect counsellor afterwards.

4. Can I make a submission on behalf of someone else?

Yes, but make sure that if you’re acting on behalf of a survivor that you prioritise their interests.

5. Can I save my submission and complete it over multiple sittings?

While the online portal does not allow you to save your submission and come back to it, you can use the word.doc supplied here. It is very normal for survivors to want to take breaks and tell their story over multiple sittings.

6. Can I make multiple submissions?

Yes.

7.  Can I edit, add to, or make changes to my submission after I submit it?

Yes, however as this particular portal does not allow you to save and edit your work, you must contact the Australian Human Rights Commission and retrieve a copy of your initial submission in order to edit or change it. It’s unfortunate that the online portal is unable to be edited because survivors often recall different parts of their story at different times.  Allowing people to control access to their own story is extremely important. 

8. When is the deadline for submissions?

The closing dates for submissions will be provided in early 2017. 

9. What do I do if I find a question offensive, overwhelming or confusing?

You do not need to include any information that you do not want to include. Only answer what you are comfortable answering. Self-care strategies can assist - for example, take a break, use mindfulness or breathing techniques or have a friend or support person with you while you work on the form. Remember that you can always debrief with a counsellor at 1800 Respect on 1800 737 732. You can also raise your complaints directly with the Australian Human Rights Commission here:  universitiesproject@humanrights.gov.au or call (02) 9284 9600.

10. What do I do if my sexual assault did not take place at one of the specific locations listed on the form?

While the form provides a narrow list of locations (your university campus, at a university social event, on placement as part of your studies or on public transport to or from university), the AHRC recognises that sexual assault often takes place in a much broader set of locations, such as parties, homes, etc. and as these assaults also impact on learning, education, and student wellbeing it is appropriate to include these.   

11. The online portal supplies a comprehensive list of examples of sexual harassment but not rape and sexual assault. Does this mean that the primary emphasis is on sexual harassment?

No. Despite the wording, rape and sexual assault are absolutely integral to the research. If you have experienced rape or sexual assault, your experience is completely within the scope of the research. 

12. Can I use my submission in other contexts?

Yes. We recommend you make a copy of your submission as you may decide down the track that you want to use it in a different context. For example, a victim’s compensation claim. 

13. What do I do if I can’t answer a multiple choice question because my answer isn’t one of the answers offered?

Don’t panic. The wording of the submission is unfortunate in some areas, but you are not required to fill in all fields. For example, if you are not currently enrolled as a student, you can skip any of the questions which ask about your ‘enrolment’. 

14. This submission form has come out before the survey has been released. What happens if I make a submission but am also one of the students to be included in the random sample for the survey?

You can answer both. And we encourage you to do so. The submission process will help the AHRC harvest quotes but the rigorous data that is needed will come from the survey. If you have already filled out a submission and you are also selected to answer the survey we strongly encourage you to do both, if you feel able and willing to do so. 

15. It asks if they can upload my story online. Is this safe?

The AHRC has stated that all names will be redacted, but only do what you feel comfortable doing. If you have any concerns at all, please contact the Australian Human Rights Commission here:  universitiesproject@humanrights.gov.au or call (02) 9284 9600.

16. Can I withdraw or delete my submission once it’s made if I change my mind?

Yes. Submissions can be withdrawn and deleted if you have changed your mind. Please contact the Australian Human Rights Commission here: universitiesproject@humanrights.gov.au or call (02) 9284 9600.

17. I am a man, can I make a submission?

Absolutely. Sexual violence and harassment doesn’t only impact on women. 

18. I am transgender/gender diverse/don't identify as male or female, can I make a submission?

Absolutely. Sexual violence and harassment doesn't only impact those who identify as male or female.

19. Why do they need my name and email? Can I remain anonymous?

They do not need your name but do ask for an email address. The AHRC adheres to strict privacy obligations to ensure participants have their safety and confidentiality protected. The purpose of the submissions process is to gather information and they will not be seeking to identify individuals who make submissions or  to verify their identity. The purpose of asking for a name and email is so they can find a person's submission should they wish to withdraw/amend/obtain a copy of it. If you are concerned, we suggest not using your university email address as a number of universities reserve the right to monitor their ICT facilities. You can set up a throw-away Gmail or Hotmail account to use for this purpose.

20. The form asks me if I would like my story to be published on the website. I ticked ‘’yes’’ but it hasn’t appeared yet. Why not?

The AHRC will present a report late 2016 or early 2017. If your story does not appear at that point, this doesn’t mean it wasn’t important or that you weren’t believed.

21. I noticed that the submission asks me what I did after my assault and - in the same question - mentions reporting to the university. I found that upsetting.  

Yes. Aside from being a leading question, one of the most common questions a survivor is asked is "why didn't you report?". This is often experienced as judgement over post-assault behaviour and is insensitive. It should have been asked as two questions. It's absolutely okay if you didn't disclose or report your assault to anyone, every response is legitimate.

22. I noticed that in just one question they asked about the factors that drive sexual assault, the ways to prevent it and what needs to change. That seems like a lot.

Yes. Asking a three-in-one question is not good survey design and may be particularly overwhelming for people affected by trauma. We're sorry you had that experience. Only provide the responses you feel comfortable giving - you can answer all, or some of the questions or leave them unanswered. 

23. I noticed that they asked a lot of intrusive questions about my assault, including the details of what happened and who was involved. Do I need to give all of these details?

No. Some survivors may find these questions intrusive and you should only provide the responses you feel comfortable giving. It's your story and you should be in control.

24.  If I find the survey distressing and/or it brings up issues where do I get support?

Any individual who has been impacted by sexual assault or sexual violence can contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. If you would like queer-specific counselling, you can contact  Q Life on 1800 184 527. For more support services, including sexual assault services in each state and territory, see our support services page. To find out about what services End Rape on Campus Australia provides click here or contact us here.