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02 Aug 2017

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is concerned by the results of the Respect.Now.Always survey that has revealed a high prevalence of sexual harassment and assault at Australian universities. 


AMSA is the peak representative body for Australia’s 17,000 medical students and strongly advocates for strategies to combat the incidence of sexual harassment, improve reporting mechanisms and facilitate appropriate victim support.  


AMSA President, Rob Thomas, says: “We are both greatly saddened and concerned by the results of the Respect.Now.Always that showed as many as 1 in 5 students are victims of sexual harassment or assault at university. 


“There is only one acceptable figure for episodes of sexual harassment or assault and that is zero.


“University should be an exciting time of learning and opportunity for students. However, for victims this is replaced by the negative consequences of sexual harassment that greatly impact on personal wellbeing.


The Change the Course: National Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at Australian Universities, released on Tuesday, outlines the Australian Human Rights Commission’s findings on the prevalence and nature of sexual assault and harassment at Australian universities based on the analysis of the Respect.Now.Always survey.


“We hope that the shocking results outlined in this report kick-start the change we need to see to drastically reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment and ensure that our universities are safe places for all students,” says Mr Thomas.


“We are encouraged by the announcement of initial responses by the university sector.  We hope to see this momentum built upon in the coming months and meaningful action taken in this direction.”


An alarming finding outlined in the report is that incidences of sexual harassment or assault often go unreported due to uncertain pathways or reporting mechanisms available to students.


Mr Thomas says, “The report found that 94% of students who were sexually harassed and 87% of students who were sexually assaulted did not make a formal report or complaint to their university.


“This is particularly problematic for medical students. Many medical students face sexual harassment while undergoing full-time clinical placements in hospitals. The report demonstrated that Reporting pathways are often unclear for these students, these pathways are only even more uncertain for students based away from university campuses, for example at hospitals.


“Fear of repercussion is also a serious barrier to reporting due to the hierarchical nature of medicine. In medical school, your supervisor is not just your university lecturer but has a high chance of being a superior colleague to you in future employment.


“We call upon universities and medical schools to provide clear reporting structures that have effective consequences for those who perpetuate sexual harassment.


“AMSA will continue its ongoing work informing its members and working with medical school representatives to ensure that all students are well aware of these pathways and that they are accessible. 


“It is vital that students can report on instances of sexual harassment without encountering the threat of reprisal and receive adequate support in doing so.”


Media Contact:


Isabella Gosper


Phone: 0457 252 888


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Published: 02 Aug 2017