By Rebecca Zhong
Content warning: this article includes discussions of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
ANU has begun seeking student input on its draft Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy (SVPS) this week through student forums. The broad aim of the Strategy is to create “an ANU free from violence”, with a specific focus on addressing sexual assault, sexual harassment and violence against women.
The draft SVPS, which was released in March, has been developed with input from the Respectful Relationships steering group, in addition to staff and student working groups. As of last month, the Respectful Relationships steering group has been replaced by an advisory group, which includes the ANUSA President, Vice-President and Women’s Officer. The current draft builds on the Cultural Change Strategy initially developed by the consulting firm Rapid Context after it completed its review of ANU’s policies and procedures around sexual violence.
The Strategy highlights the need for a response system which can “respond in flexible ways” to meet the needs of different cultural and social groups at the ANU. Additionally, it recognises specific groups within ANU “who will benefit from more specific and intensive effort and greater resources”, including LGBTIQ+ students, Higher Degree Research students, people with disabilities, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. The Strategy also outlines the need to “increase the representation of men in our prevention efforts”, in recognition of the high levels of men as perpetrators of violence against both men and women.
The stated aims of the Strategy, which is intended to encompass the whole ANU community, include “awareness of the causes and forms of sexual violence”, engagement in prevention, and “timely, accessible and effective” responses to the disclosure of incidents. These outcomes, listed in the draft document, were a focus of the student consultation sessions.
The Strategy divides ANU’s actions into 3 phases, spanning from 2018 to 2025, with a “rolling action plan” to be developed for each phase. The purpose of the current phase, Phase One, is to “lay the foundations” for upcoming years by developing current support services and initiatives like the Consent Matters module and ANU’s partnership with the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre. The second phase is set to begin next year. According to the Strategy, this next phase will continue to focus on increasing prevention initiatives and activities, and ensuring “tools and resources will be more readily available” across the university.
Forums were held this week for postgraduate and undergraduate student consultation on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. In these sessions, students were invited to provide feedback on current initiatives and structures, and suggest possible approaches for achieving the outcomes set out in the Strategy.
A concern raised at these sessions was accountability for the execution of the Strategy. The Strategy’s implementation will be overseen by student and staff in the Respectful Relationships advisory group. Additionally, an independent assessor from another academic institution will advise the Vice Chancellor on the adoption of measures relating to the Strategy.
ANUSA Women’s Officer Priyanka Tomar told Observer that she believes “open forums” such as the student consultation sessions are “essential” to the creation of effective strategies for change. “Making sure that our advocacy is informed by all aspects of the student body and involves as many different perspectives as possible is a priority,” she said.
If you have been affected by sexual violence, support is available:
ANU Counselling: 02 6125 2442 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri)
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre: (02) 6247 2525 (7am-11pm)
1800 RESPECT (24/7)
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