New report on sexual violence among students released


Released 24/08/17

A report on tertiary students’ experiences of sexual violence was released today by the New Zealand Union of Students Associations (NZUSA).

The In Our Own Words report is the result of an opt-in survey conducted by NZUSA, which received over 1400 responses. It is the first of its kind in New Zealand and follows similar climate studies conducted by student organisations internationally.

The findings share students’ lived experience of:

  • Sexuality education and sexual violence prior to tertiary education,
  • Sexual harassment and sexual assault during tertiary education,
  • Experiences of institutional support services and reporting pathways, and
  • Experiences with ableism, racism and LGBTQIA+ discrimination.

“The report gives us our first real insight into the different ways that students experience sexual violence before and during their time as a tertiary student,” says Thursdays in Black National Coordinator and In Our Own Words author Izzy O’Neill.

“We are incredibly grateful for the students who shared their stories, and to the sexual violence prevention and LGBTQIA+ community organisations we worked with in analysing the findings.

“This means that we can co-design prevention initiatives that meet the specific needs of the diverse student body. By conducting more surveys in the future, we can continue to monitor the success of these initiatives and tailor them to best fit these needs.”

At the launch, Alistair Shaw, Executive Director of NZUSA, outlined a three-year action plan for preventing and responding to sexual violence within tertiary communities. This will include reviews of tertiary education institution’s policies on sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention; enhancing reporting systems and support for students; and training and education programmes for residential assistants, staff, and students.

ACC is providing NZUSA with $1.4 million over the next three years to support the action plan. Mike McCarthy, Manager, Violence Injury Prevention Portfolio, noted that 22% of ACC’s new sensitive claims in the 2016/17 financial year were from those aged 18-24.  Last year ACC paid out $103 million on treatment and entitlements on sensitive claims.

“Our goal is to support young adults so they can experience safe, healthy and respectful relationships”.

“We see this partnership as a great opportunity for ACC to work with NZUSA and tertiary institutions. Sexual violence and consent is a wider issue for New Zealand. Changing the culture around it is challenging for all of us,” said Mr McCarthy.

The full findings of the survey can be found at thursdaysinblack.org.nz/survey

Summary of “In Our Own Words”

Sexuality education:

  • Students say secondary school sexuality education was inconsistent and varied.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 respondents did not receive any form of consent education at secondary school.
  • Those who received consent education were significantly less likely to experience sexual violence prior to tertiary education.

The report urgently recommends universal access to consistent, best practice sexuality education for all secondary school students. One respondent said that their experiences of sexual violence at secondary school caused them ongoing depression and anxiety. “[It] impacted my secondary education negatively. [I] had to do a foundation course to be able to study at university.”

Sexual harassment for tertiary students:

  • Of the 1,103 respondents to the question, 83% said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment when presented with a list of descriptors.
  • Sexual harassment most often took place off campus, on public streets.
  • 409 respondents reported that sexual harassment occurred on campus.
  • 520 students experienced sexual harassment from another student.

One respondent said “she was in my class so it was uncomfortable having to see her and be expected to talk to her.”

Sexual assault for tertiary students:

  • Of the 936 respondents to the question, 53% said they experienced some forms of sexual assault when presented with a list of descriptors.
  • Sexual assault was most often described as reoccurring – between “two to five times”.
  • Students say that the first year of study is the period where sexual assault happens most.
  • Students described sexual assault as most commonly being perpetrated by someone they were dating at the time or had previously dated. The second most common was another tertiary student.

One respondent said “I never realized that I was being coerced to have sex until after the relationship with that person was over”. Another survey respondent said that experiencing sexual assault during tertiary education meant that they were “unable to concentrate on [their] studies. Unable to remember anything that I studied.”

Another respondent said “I have failed many papers due to the impact of my rape and have had to take longer to graduate because of this.”