What is sexual assault?

What can I do if I’m a victim of sexual assault?

Who can I speak to in my state or territory?

What is sexual harassment?

What can I do if I’m a victim of sexual harassment?

Emma Watson, United Nations goodwill ambassador and actress has launched a report into sexual assault at universities.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly, Watson said,

‘A university should be a place of refuge that takes action against all forms of violence.’

The launch of the report comes at the same time as increased discussion of the issue of sexual assault and harassment at Australian universities.

In August 2016, the Australian Human Rights Commission launched a national survey, Respect. Now. Always, inviting university students to anonymously share their experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The survey is part of an ongoing campaign, which earlier this year identified international students as a group that is particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault.


To participate in the respect now survey, go to: humanrights.gov.au/universitysubmissions


This is mainly due to cultural and language barriers, which can make identifying and reporting on sexual assault and harassment more difficult for international students.

It is common for victims of sexual assault and harassment to feel fear, shame or confusion. But sexual assault and harassment are never the fault of the victim.  If you or someone you know is or has experienced it, there is help and resources available to you.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is a criminal offense. It is any type of coerced or forced sexual behavior or contact that occurs without the victim’s consent.

For more information, see Reach Out’s article What is sexual assault?

What can I do if I’m a victim of sexual assault?

  • Firstly it is important to remove yourself from any immediate danger. If you’re in immediate danger, call 000. If you’re on campus grounds, call campus security.
  • Find a person who you can talk to like a friend, family member or a counsellor.  There are state and territory organisations that offer information and support for victims (see below) and there may also be counsellors available at your university.
  • It is up to you if you report the incident to the police or your institution, but it is encouraged.
  • Specialist support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732). For translating and interpreting service, national call 13 14 50 and ask them to contact 1800 RESPECT.
  • You may want to consider getting medical help from a hospital or health centre.

Who can I speak to in my state or territory?

There are different services available to victims of sexual assault in each state and territory.  You can find the complete guide at Reach Out’s Sexual Assualt Services. 

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is illegal in Australia.  The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) defines sexual harassment as ‘any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.’ It can be physical or verbal.

For more info, see the AHRC’s guide to Identifying Sexual Harassment.

What can I do if I’m a victim of sexual harassment?

  • First, let the person that is doing the harassment know that their behaviour is unwelcome and should stop.
  • Keep records of any harassment.  For example, write down dates, locations and keep any text messages or emails
  • If the situation doesn’t stop make a formal complaint with your institution or workplace.
  • If you’re not satisfied with their response, you can also make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.