Why this is important

This is an action plan to contribute to creating cultures of consent and respect at the University of Auckland, specifically to advance and expand the University’s work in the area of Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB). The Action Plan builds on the processes and services already in place at the University to further prevent and respond to HSB, in particular through improvements to:

• our leadership, governance, and resourcing of harmful sexual behaviours
• prevention initiatives such as awareness campaigns, education and training of staff and students in our University community
• the way we respond to reports of HSB and the support services we provide, should it happen now or if historical abuse is disclosed
• how we measure progress.

The World Health Organization defines sexual violence as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work” (Krug, Dalhberg, Mercy, Zwi, & Lozano, 2002).

Sexual violence is a prevalent issue worldwide and an experience that 34% of women and 12% of men in New Zealand will face during their lifetime (Ministry of Justice, 2020). International research shows that 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime (James, et al., 2016). These statistics still grossly under-report the issue, as 94% of sexual offences and 76% family violence incidents (including sexual offences) go unreported (Ministry of Justice , 2019).

In absolute numbers, women (of all ethnicities, sexualities, and class positions) are the category of people who are most likely to be victims/survivors of sexual violence, and men are the primary perpetrators of violence against women, particularly of sexual violence (Fanslow, Hashemi, Gulliver, & McIntosh, 2021).

However, intersecting social issues of colonialism, race, class, gender, sexuality, and ableism cleave conceptual and material possibilities for sexual violence to take form. For instance, Māori are more likely to experience sexual violence compared with other ethnic groups within New Zealand (Ministry of Justice, 2015), and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQITakatāpui+) are also over-represented as victims of sexual violence (Dickson, 2016). This necessitates us to consider different approaches and resourcing to create tailored prevention and support services that meet the unique needs of these disproportionately affected groups.

I was sexually assaulted, I developed PTSD, an eating disorder and severe
depression. I became suicidal and had to take time out of uni.

Pākehā woman

Research also shows certain age groups experience sexual violence at elevated rates. The 16-24 age group is four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other age group (New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse, 2011). As this is a common age range for entry into university, it is not surprising that sexual violence against university students (especially female students) is a significant issue in New Zealand and overseas tertiary settings (Fisher, Daigle, & Cullen, 2009).

In 2017 the Thursdays in Black national group released a report entitled “In Our Own Words” about sexual violence in tertiary settings. Of the 755 self-identifying women who responded, 57% indicated they had been sexually assaulted while in tertiary education (Thursdays in Black, 2017). Of these women, 44% found these experiences had negatively impacted on their tertiary education, often resulting in them taking time away from their studies (Thursdays in Black, 2017).

My sexual assaults in my first year caused me to repeat a year of university as the resulting anxiety and depression made me unable to attend classes.

Pākehā woman

Studies show almost a quarter of people who experience sexual violence during their time at university drop out, and only a third finish their degree on time (compared with almost 60% of overall student population) (Jordan, Combs, & Smith, 2014; Littleton, 2014; Potter, Howard, Murphy, & Moynihan, 2018).

It is also common for people who have experienced sexual violence during their time at university to change their major to secondary career choices they think will be less demanding, thus affecting subject choices, enrolment status, changes in living and socioeconomic situations and projected earnings (Lindquist, et al., 2013), adding to gender inequities in many professions (Potter, Howard, Murphy, & Moynihan, 2018).

Please email all feedback and suggestions to wellbeing@auckland.ac.nz