Bisexual students are more than twice as likely to be sexually assaulted in an Australian University than their gay or straight colleagues according to a report released by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The study, which was commissioned by Australia’s Universities, was conducted from more than 30,000 students across 39 universities during 2015 and 2016. More than 1800 students also provided submissions to the Commission.
From the submissions, mainly conducted online, students who identified as bisexual (3.8%) were more likely than those who identified as heterosexual (1.5%) or gay/lesbian/homosexual (1.4%) to have been sexually assaulted in a university setting in 2015 or 2016.
The report also stated that 44% of students who identified as bisexual and 38% of students who identified as gay, lesbian or homosexual were sexually harassed in a university setting in 2016, compared with 23% of students who identified as heterosexual.
The results have sent a shockwave through universities across Australia with a number of the larger institutions apologising to students and declaring that changes will be made.
Overall 21% of all students, that’s 1 in 5, are sexually harassed in universities and 1.6% are sexually abused, 21% of these occurring at a uni social event or within a uni residence.
When speaking directly about LGBT submissions, the report revealed that students did not make a report of sexual assault or sexual harassment because they were afraid that the person they reported to might hold negative attitudes towards them based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
“I did not report it to anyone or tell anyone of this incident. There is already a social stigma against homosexuals in Australia, and I think my experience will just exacerbate it,” suggested someone who took part in the survey.
The Commission also heard in submissions that people who had not ‘come out’ as gay or bisexual did not feel comfortable reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment.
“I didn’t report the incident…because I wasn’t ready to come out to anyone.”
“The unavoidable conclusion of the data we have gathered from more than 30,000 university students across all 39 Australian universities is that incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment are occurring at unacceptable rates at Australian universities,” said Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
“Almost a third of sexual harassment reported in the survey occurred on University grounds or in teaching spaces, while one in five of those who were sexually assaulted said that this occurred at a university or residence social event.”
“We found that college settings are a particular area of concern, particularly for women who were four times as likely as men to have been sexually assaulted in this setting.”
The survey was delivered by Roy Morgan. The Commission sought and received ethics approval for the national survey from the Human Research Ethics Committee at the University of New South Wales.