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Less than 2% of sexual assaults led to expulsion, SN university FOI reveals

NOTE: The figures reported in this story are not final as some Freedom of Information requests remain outstanding. As we endeavour to compile an accurate representation of this issue Sunday Night will continue to adjust the data below as more universities make the information available.

Only six out of 575 reported sexual misconduct cases at Australian universities have led to student expulsion, a groundbreaking Freedom of Information investigation has revealed.

The sexual misconduct was supplied by 27 universities including sexual assault, rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment, indecent behavior and filming without consent occurring between 2011 and 2016.

Of those, 145 were rape. Some of them were by repeat offenders.

The freedom of information searches show that less than 2 percent of alleged perpetrators are removed from the university.

The information gathered details offences including an attempted gang rape by three men at one university.

Another university allegedly gave the perpetrator of a sexual assault a master key to access all dormitory rooms.

Professor Barney Glover has the tough job of defending Australian universities.

Jannika Jacky had to leave university to cope with her assault. Her attacker graduated this year
Jannika Jacky had to leave university to cope with her assault. Her attacker graduated this year

"Australian university campuses are very safe," he said.

"One of the challenges I think we experience on campuses right around Australia is a very difficult circumstance where a student has experienced the devastating result of sexual assault or violence and for whatever reason they aren't prepared to go to the police," he said.

"There's no place for perpetrators of sexual violence in Australian society, there certainly no place for them in Australian University Campuses, they should get out."

But in the vast majority of these cases, compiled by Sunday Night, students received no formal penalty for their behavior, with only 14 suspensions and six expulsions for almost 600 offences.

Sexual assaults are often under-reported due to the amount of trauma involved.

"They are difficult for someone to navigate who hasn't suffered any trauma," Sharna Bremner said.

"When you've got trauma on top of that it basically becomes impossible."

Sharna Bremner works for EROC, an organisation dedicated to ending the rape culture
Sharna Bremner works for EROC, an organisation dedicated to ending the rape culture

Sharna's work is in tracking the number of university students who’ve been assaulted via the organisation End Rape on Campus Australia (EROC).

"It's a no win situation — you report to the police, or the university can help you, but once you've reported to the police, the university can't help you."

Jannika Jacky, Olivia Todhunter and Emma Hunt do not know each other — they live in different cities where they attend different universities — but their stories are frighteningly similar.

Emma Hunt tells Sunday Night she was drunk at a party when she woke up in a cabin with a male student having sex with her.

"I was so excited to meet new people, we had a themed party, we all got to dress up in costumes."

It took her a long time to report the incident because she didn’t feel like she could.

"I didn't know there was any way to do it. The services didn't seem to be obvious and available to me."

"I've been asked what was I wearing. I've been asked why did you drink that much. I've been told that I wanted the attention and I put myself out there, and no wonder I was the one that was targeted," she said.

Emma Hunt suffered in silence for months before reporting her assault
Emma Hunt suffered in silence for months before reporting her assault

Police are now investigating but Emma lives in fear of seeing her attacker at university every day and finds it very hard to talk about what happened to her.

"I find that I have to be really hyper vigilant and I look around everywhere to see if I can recognize him and I never really know when the next day is that I'm going to run into him. "

Jannika was studying for a Bachelor of Science at the university of Western Australia and celebrating her 18th birthday. Her alleged attacker attended the same party.

She had a lot to drink and couldn't find her friend who had her room key so she asked to go to his room to escape the cold.

"He seemed like a perfectly good you know charming funny sort of person."

"I remember walking into the room I remember turning the light switch on and then I remember him walking up behind me turning the light switch off and kissing me."

"I remember quite clearly saying 'No, I don't want to do this, I don't think this is a good idea because we're just friends' and yeah pretty much, he just didn't stop."

Some documents detailing assaults were almost completely redacted by universities before being supplied

Jannika has since dropped out of university, walking away from her dream of being a scientist. Her alleged attacker did not return to student accommodation but no further action was taken. He graduated this month.

For Olivia Todhunter, the trauma has pushed her to speak out publicly against victim blaming.

She was on exchange overseas in her first year at the University of Wollongong when she sexually assaulted by a fellow Australian student.

"I remember saying 'stop' I remember saying 'get off', I remember saying 'You have a girlfriend', I remember saying that 'I didn't want this,' Olivia said.

"It was a sexual assault. That's point blank what it is."

Academic Dr Rosyln Arnold is a former council member of Sydney University’s prestigious St John's residential college who quit her position in disgust in 2012 after a female student was forced to drink a potentially deadly cocktail of shampoo, dog food and alcohol.

"I was appalled that there seemed to be very few people on the council who were equally concerned and when I stood down, somebody looked at me and said 'You do know you're overreacting don't you?'"

"Universities are designed to inspire the very best in human thought and behavior... but unfortunately, for some other students, it's anything but that."

Dr Roslyn Arnold stepped down from her position at Sydney University in disgust
Dr Roslyn Arnold stepped down from her position at Sydney University in disgust

Australia’s universities have asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct a national student survey on sexual assault and sexual harassment as part of their Respect Now Always initiative.

They’re asking all university students who have recently received an email asking them to complete the survey to take the time to fill it out.

In addition, any student who isn’t selected in that random sample can make a submission via the Human Rights Commission website. Students can also call 1800 RESPECT if they need advice or help regarding an assault.

Among the universities that refused our freedom of information requests were those attended by Jannika and Emma — the University of Western Australia and Melbourne's Monash University.

It is difficult to measure the true extent of sexual assault across the entire community because a majority of cases remain unreported.

The table below has the number of reported cases of sexual misconduct from each university that responded to our Freedom of Information request and lists the figures for official action taken. Note that lack of disciplinary action in a number of cases reported is due to the case being unsubstantiated or the matter being referred to police and still being under investigation.