Australian universities are hotbeds of sexual assault, according to a breathlessly reported ‘investigation’ that was beamed into the nation’s livingrooms on Sunday night. Look at the numbers, however, and it emerges that female students are safer on campus than off
Here’s an interesting thought. Our universities are at the forefront of modern caring, environmentally sustainable institutions, capable of such sensitivity as manifests itself in the establishment of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”, support for “gender fluidity” and everything else from the cornucopia of the left’s goodies — same-sex marriage, open borders, BDS, action on climate change etc etc. You name it – the list is almost endless.
And yet, perversely it seems that, at the same time, our tertiary institutions are hotbeds of untrammelled male sexual predation – at least according to the Sunday Night program which aired on the weekend. Continuing the tradition of fearless investigative journalism that gave us the latest Royal Commission into Aboriginal kids in custody and the heart-warming (albeit brief) reunion of Sally Faulkner and her children in Beirut, Sunday Night has blown the lid off the ‘rape culture’ endemic in our universities and the callous lack of action, indeed cover-up, on the part of university administrators.
The program commenced with statistics, which always piques my scepticism. We were told that ‘a ground-breaking Freedom of Information investigation’ has revealed that:
‘Only six out of 575 reported sexual misconduct cases at Australian universities have led to student expulsion.’
That sounds serious, but let’s look a little deeper. First, the report covers five years of data, from 2011 to 2016. It goes on to say that of those 575 cases, only 145 were rape. The remainder were ‘sexual misconduct’ which covers a multitude of sins, many of them mere peccadillos. I do not intend to address the sexual-misconduct category here, just the more serious sexual assault.
So what does that say about the prevalence of sexual assault in universities? Well, there are many views on this but the first one I happened upon comes from an SBS article that tells us Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of reported sexual assault, at 92 persons per 100,000. So that’s 920 per million. Clearly, on this basis, the rate of actual sexual assault — rather than those reported — would be higher, possibly considerably so.
Now consider that the population of Australian universities is approx one million local students and 300,000 foreign. So, at 145 rapes over five years, the on-campus incidence would appear to be well below the national average. In fact, as low as 30 rapes per year in a floating population of 1.3 million. So why the sudden shock-horror attention to a problem that, on the numbers, is nowhere near so significant as Sunday Night‘s breathless reporting suggested? Perhaps it was inspired by nothing more than fashion, as the alleged “rape epidemic” at US colleges has been making headlines, a good many of the more notorious cases proving to be bogus.
But the more important allegation in the report is that university authorities are effectively allowing sexual predators to get off scot free. The report names three specific victims, and in what I am about to say I would like to make clear that I have no intention of impugning those ladies or belittling what they have suffered. My issue is with the way in which their cases were reported.
The experience of the first victim is reported as follows:
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.
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.”
…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.”
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.
…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.”
If we look at these case studies, the picture is not so clear-cut. (I should add that I’m only quoting from a transcript that appears on the Sunday Night website.
Case #1 is clearly an example of what is now called ‘date rape’ — certainly a greyer area than forced sex at knife point, for example. She did not report it for a long time — do university students not know how to dial triple-O? — and police are now investigating. Hardly a culture of neglect or cover up on the part of her university.
It is not explicit from victim #2’s account whether or not she reported the incident to either the university or to police. In the absence of this information, this case study does not support the contention that universities are negligent.
Case #3 is even more opaque. The circumstances are not described, and it is not clear that sexual penetration occurred. Again, there is no indication that the incident was reported at the time or that the university ignored her complaint.
At the NSW Department of Justice Victims Services website sexual assault is defined:
Sexual Assault is a broad term describing all sexual offences against adults and children. It also describes a specific offence when a person has sexual intercourse with another person without their consent.
Consent occurs when a person freely and voluntarily agrees to sexual intercourse. Sexual assault occurs when someone is unable to and/or does not give consent. The law says that a person is unable to give consent when:
- asleep or unconscious
- significantly intoxicated or affected by drugs
- unable to understand what they are consenting to due to their age or intellectual capacity
- intimidated, coerced or threatened
- unlawfully detained or held against their will
- they submit due to the person being in a position of trust.
Almost certainly most of the alleged Sunday Night rapes would have of the ‘date rape’ variety — rape by virtue of a lack of consent based on ‘significantly intoxicated or affected by drugs’. Feminists would argue that plying a female with alcohol, with the deliberate intention to lower her inhibitions, is tantamount to assault. I would think the far more common occurrence, alcohol and hormones being integral to student parties, would be that sex just happens. Sex is not, intrinsically, a violent act, nor is it criminal. It is something that both sexes crave and alcohol often paves the way. How is the male participant to determine that the female participant is now significantly intoxicated and that her consent cannot be assumed? Why should he be pilloried while the female participant not only excused her error of judgement but also awarded victim status? And if such a victim delays reporting the rape ‘for a long time’ why should a jury reject the notion that she was simply exercising a payback following a fallout?
I do not question the statistic quoted that only six of these rapes resulted in expulsion but it poses some further questions that are not addressed in the report. How many of these allegations were reported to police? How many inspired police investigations? How many convictions resulted? If an allegation is tested in court and not proved, what justification would a university have for expelling the accused student?
In the community at large, apparently only 10% of reported sexual assaults result in a conviction. In this case, only four percent of the rape allegations resulted in expulsions, but how many of these were actually reported to police? And, if not reported to police but only to the university, what special expertise does a faculty have, that a court does not, to determine guilt or innocence in a rape case?
In many cases rape, particularly date rape, is difficult to prove and the presumption of innocence still applies, even to men. Is it any wonder that conviction rates are low?
If the universities had justification for sanctioning, even expelling, the students responsible for the offences against the ladies mentioned above but failed to act, why did the Sunday Night report fail to name them? Where is their fearless investigative journalism?
The Sunday Night report set out to establish two premises:
- that there is a ‘rape culture’ at Australian universities, and
- that university authorities are ignoring it.
As I have shown above, the first premise is demonstrably, laughably wrong, while the second is arguable on the figures presented in the report.
However, and far be it from me to rush to the defence of universities, which I find myself holding increasingly in contempt, but I am finding it really difficult to imagine why an organisation that is the very spearhead of political correctness in all the trendy issues would ignore the one thing that the whole of society abhors. I’m betting that university bureaucracies are heavy with card-carrying feminists. Are their principles so ephemeral that they are prepared to overlook these crimes just in the name of not rocking the boat? (Don’t answer that!)
My intention in penning this piece was not to downplay the evil or the malign effects of rape, but to highlight the shallow and sensationalist nature of what now passes for mainstream journalism. There is no special rape culture at universities. There may be ineptitude or even conspiracy on the part of university bureaucracies that implicitly condone what sexual misconduct does occur, but it would take a considerably more forensic investigation than strewing a few meaningless statistics about to prove it.
Prosecuting rape cases is a contentious issue and programs like this do nothing to improve the situation. This program was nothing more than a pathetic attempt to perpetuate the myth that men, in general, are sexual predators and that society conspires to protect them.