Everyone's Business

By Lily Mirfin

Trigger warning. This article discusses confronting themes which may include sexual harassment, mental health, and suicide.

When I first started at UC, I didn’t even consider that sexual harassment might become part of my study experience. But the statistics prove that for many students, it’s sadly the way their time at university goes. The recent findings of a study into sexual harassment amongst New Zealand students show that almost one in three will be sexually harassed or assaulted during their time at university. There needs to be more done for incoming students in terms of education around this subject. But given how alcohol fueled the university experience is, one of the most effective ways to improve your safety and the safety of your friends is to simply take care of each other.  

This isn’t a problem for any one gender. This is a collective issue. We can’t simply re-educate or identify everyone who could sexually harass someone. Keeping each other safe by following a few simple steps is the simplest way to move forward. Try and make sure one of you is sober, or at least semi-sober than the rest of you. Keep track of everyone. I know running away for a solo adventure can seem fun and all when you’re drunk. But it’s a very dangerous situation to get yourself into. Be aware of where the help points are around campus. These are large power pole-like spots where you can contact UC security in a well-lit spot.  

Reporting sexual harassment and assault at universities in Aotearoa has been a short falling for a very long time. There have been improvements made since, reporting sexual harassment can be done formally or informally by any students or staff members. This is the most comprehensive website created by UC on the subject: 

https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/support/health/sexual-harassment-and-sexual-assault/  

This website includes how reporting can be done and gives sources on keeping yourself safe. This website is a necessary read for all new and returning students.   

This topic wasn’t even discussed when I was looking at what university to attend. I didn’t even have an understanding of how prevalent sexual assault and harassment is at universities. It was a bit of a shock to find out how permeated it is into our tertiary culture. But we can change this. Collectively, if we all keep an eye on each other and call out any behaviour, we see in an attempt to lower the number of students that are harassed. A recent study has found that out of the students sexually harassed or assaulted at New Zealand universities, one third tell no one and a further third told only one person. I urge you to please; please report anything that happens. It’s one of the few things you can do to stop this occurring again. It’s not my goal to scare anyone off never going out after dark again. But please look after yourselves and make sure those around you are feeling safe.  

Keeping yourself and others safe is of immense importance. You want to keep the parties going and keep having fun. Don’t let sexual harassment and assault make this impossible.  

Link to article on the Otago 2020 study: 

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/123017122/the-dark-side-of-university-28-per-cent-of-students-experience-sexual-assault-otago-study-finds