Guidelines for university responses to sexual assault and sexual harassment

Last modified: October 18, 2018

Australian universities worked together on best practices and guidelines

“In February 2016, Universities Australia (UA) launched the Respect. Now. Always. initiative. A global first, this initiative brought together Australia’s 39 universities to work collectively to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment – and to share best practice on how to improve support for students affected. As part of this comprehensive program of work by Australian universities, UA agreed to develop a set of guidelines to further assist universities to respond with care and compassion to disclosures or reports of sexual assault or sexual harassment.”

Support for the person experiencing the violence

A survey “demonstrated that more needs to be done not only to encourage students to report incidents to their institutions, but to support them through the reporting process.” “Understanding of, and responses to, sexual assault and sexual harassment (…) need to evolve from a purely legal approach to one that prioritises the needs of the person who experiences the violence. By doing so, universities can better ensure the safety and wellbeing of the person who experiences the violence while also acknowledging the social context in which it occurs.”

How is this related to research integrity?

The relation between sexual harassment and questionable research practices might not immediately be visible. Of course, they are very different to each other and not necessarily related. However, there are some parallels. First, both are unwanted behaviors (not only) in science. Second, they can have similar roots or causes: abuse of power and a working climate that is not open, honest and safe. Third, people reporting incidents of sexual assault or cases of research misconduct are in a delicate position. They need support and guidance from universities. By appropriately addressing sexual harassment and assault, a better culture can possibly be created that is not only beneficial for the individual but also for sicence in general.

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