Sexual assault & sexual harassment support
Sexual assault & sexual harassment
What is sexual assault?
"Sexual assault occurs when a person is forced, coerced or tricked into sexual acts against their will or without their consent, or if a child or young person under 18 is exposed to sexual activities.
Sexual assault is a crime. Sexual assault is not the victim's fault.
Sexual assault can happen to anyone in our community. This includes people who are young or old, male or female, from any cultural background, wealthy or not so wealthy, married or not. Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault.
Most victims of sexual assault know the person who assaulted them, such as a family member or friend or someone from work, school, church or another social group. A person you don't know or have just met can commit sexual assault.
Women and men as victims of sexual assault are treated equally under the law." Victim's Services Justice NSW 2017.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is any unwanted, unwelcome or uninvited behaviour of a sexual nature which a person should expect will make the recipient feel humiliated, intimidated or offended. Sexual harassment can take many different forms and may include physical contact, verbal comments, jokes, propositions, the display of offensive material or other behaviour which creates a sexually hostile working or studying environment. Sexual harassment is not behaviour which is based on mutual attraction, friendship and respect. Sexual assault or sexual harassment can happen to anyone in our community.
Female, male and LGBTIQ+ community members can be victims of sexual assault or harassment and are treated equally under the law.
- staring or leering in a sexual manner
- unwelcome wolf whistling
- comments about a person's physical appearance or sexual characteristics
- sexual or physical contact, such as slapping, kissing touching, hugging or massaging
- displaying or circulating sexual material, for example on a noticeboard or by email
- repeated sexual invitations when the person has refused similar invitations before
- initiation ceremonies involving unwelcome sexually related behaviour
- intrusive questions about sexual activity Antidiscrimination Board of NSW
Further information can be found in the University's Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy.
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.
(Victims's Services Justice NSW 2017)
- If you are on any campus, you can also reach UOW Security via the UOW SafeZone App.
- Students - To access counselling, the first step is to register by completing the Registration and Consent Form (note: only current UOW students can access this form using their UOW student login details).
- Staff - UOW Staff can access counselling via the Employee Assistance Program
From NSW Police
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, either recently or in the past, you can report the assault to the NSW Police Department. Further information is available at: NSW Police Department. UOW Support Staff can assist you through this process.
After hours services:
- 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), the 24/7 National Counselling Helpline for people who have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence. Ask for an interpreter or translator if required or call TIS on 131 450 and ask them to contact the service on your behalf.
- Domestic Family Violence and Sexual Assault Service
- NSW Victims Services for information about support available to you.
- NSW Rape Crisis Centre for 24/7 online or telephone support phone 1800 424 017 or visit the Reach out website
- QLife: National LGBTI Telephone Counselling and Information Line on 1800 184 527. Available from 3pm until midnight each day for telephone counselling or online chats.
- Mensline telephone and online support and information service for men on 1300 789978 at any time.
During campus business hours:
- To access support, visit the NSW Health Sexual Assault Services.
Establishing safety and organising emergency assistance
In the event of a recent incident of sexual assault, determine if there is any immediate danger, or if the person needs immediate medical/Police/Emergency Services assistance.
Emergency response to a critical incident involving Sexual Assault
- If OFF campus: call Triple Zero (000) for Police and/or Ambulance. Always call Triple Zero (000) in situations where a life is in danger, a crime is taking place, or when the situation is critical.
- An emergency translation service is available on 1300 655 010 Website: TIS
If on any UOW campus - call UOW security 4221 4900 (24 hours a day). Advise Security if police and/or ambulance are required.
If you, or the person you are supporting, have the SafeZone app, you can use it to contact the UOW Security team. Security will know your location on campus, respond to you and organise assistance from emergency services. If you are outside of the SafeZone, the app will prompt you and tell you. You can make a triple zero 000 telephone call as prompted.
Listen and support
It can be daunting to hear someone disclose a sexual assault or details of sexual harassment. Find a quiet safe place so that you can listen to the person. Remain calm and attend to what is being said. Listening without judgment can make a real difference. It is okay to take a moment to gather your thoughts before saying anything. Try not to ask too many questions about the incident.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment is an abuse of power usually involving intimidation over another person. Speaking clearly, calmly and compassionately can assist the person to feel safe.
Use encouraging words and phrases that avoid judgment and show support.
Consider the following phrases:
- "I'm sorry this happened." Acknowledge that the experience has had an impact. Phrases like "This must be really tough for you,"and, "I'm so glad you are sharing this with me," helps to communicate empathy.
- "It's not your fault." Remind the person you are supporting, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
- "I believe you." It can be extremely difficult to disclose sexual assault or harassment. The person disclosing may be concerned that you won't believe them.
Explore support options
Communicate to the person that they do not have to go through this alone, and there are support services that can help. Recognise their right to have as much control as possible over what happens next. They may choose to discuss their support options with
- UOW's Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment Support Service on 1300 303455 for information on support, UOW policies procedures & Investigation processes.
- A UOW Counsellor Students can call- 02 4221 3445 during business hours and ask for a priority appointment.
- Or another Specialist Support Service such as 1800 Respect (1800 737 732). This hotline is available 24/7.
- NSW Rape Crisis Centre 1800 424 017. This hotline provides 24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling.
- Violence Abuse and Neglect (VAN) Service on 1300 792 755. VAN provides free 24/7 crisis and medical support for anyone in the Illawarra or Shoalhaven who has experienced a recent sexual assault. VAN can also help connect you to other support services. If you are not in the Illawarra or Shoalhaven area then contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for information about local medical and legal support services close to you.
Helping others in a disclosure of sexual assault or sexual harassment can be confronting and difficult to process emotionally. Acknowledge your feelings. It is recommended that you debrief afterwards whilst still respecting the privacy of other persons. You can also get support:
- UOW students can speak with a counsellor from the UOW Counselling Service. To make an appointment call 02 4221 3445.
- UOW Staff can contact their Employee Assistance Program on 1300 361 008 for counselling support.
Further information on respectful relationships
UOW would like to promote a safe, respectful community free from violence and intimidation. We offer a range of training modules for students and staff that promote the importance of good communication, clear boundaries, mutual respect and consent. Our training workshops and on-line modules aim to promote positive relationships, bystander intervention, and a Support First model when others need help.
Consent Matters is an on-line module for students and staff that covers sexual consent, communication in relationships, and bystander intervention. This course will help people understand what consent looks like and identify situations where it can?t be given. The Consent Matters course is available on Moodle for all staff and students at UOW.
EO On-line - an online module for staff that promotes respectful relationships on campus free from discrimination or harassment.
UOW's Close Personal Relationships Guidelines sets out expectations regarding staff obligations to appropriately manage staff-student relationships and relationships between staff members, acknowledging that these relationships can raise issues concerning the balance of power and conflicts of interest. Staff are strongly advised not to enter into close personal relationships with students. However, where they exist or develop, staff are required to disclose the relationship in accordance with the University's Conflict of Interest Policy. Students are also strongly encouraged to disclose the relationship independently to their Head of School or other appropriate senior officer.
Learning about sexual assault and relationship violence is never easy, and it can be even harder when your native culture and language is very different from that of Australia. The fact sheets below have been produced in a variety of languages to assist you to find out more about this topic and the services available. UOW International Student Programs offers international students a workshop on Sexual Health and Relationships to educate them on sexual health, relationships and consent. Please visit the ISP events page to find out more about the workshop and when it will be delivered.
Sexual Assault Factsheet