More than half of university students in Australia were sexually harassed at least once in 2016, according to a national survey. The Australian Human Rights Commission report also found that almost 7% of students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016. Women at university were more likely than men to be assaulted or harassed, the commission found. The milestone study is said to be the largest of its kind in Australia. Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said the report painted a “disturbing” picture of university life.  “It is confronting to learn that sexual assault and sexual harassment are a common part of these students’ experiences in their academic, their social and their residential life,” she said. “Sadly, the impacts of these experiences have devastating impacts and it can be life-changing, affecting health, studies and future careers.” The study of 39 universities and 31,000 students found that sexual assault and harassment had occurred in varying degrees in all university settings. It defined sexual assault as being “when a person is forced, coerced or tricked into sexual acts against their will or without consent, including when they have withdrawn their consent”. Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, such as inappropriate leering or comments, constituted sexual harassment. “One in five of those who were sexually assaulted said that this occurred at a university or residence social event,” said Ms Jenkins. “We found that college settings are a particular area of concern, particularly for women who were four times as likely as men to have been sexually assaulted in this setting.”

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