Sexual assault is present in tertiary spaces, just like it is throughout society. On our campuses, in our flats, at our places of work, in halls of residence, out at parties – these are all spaces where the culture of being a student is created and reinforced, and we are concerned about all of these as sites where students might be victimised.
We are also concerned with the histories of abuse and trauma that people might bring with them when they begin their lives as a student. Past victimisation can have serious detrimental effects on how someone experiences this period of their lives, and it is important that institutions can provide adequate, appropriate support that caters to their diverse needs.
We believe that a variety of factors make students particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. Most students are in the most at-risk age group, of 18-24. Many are also navigating living alone for the first time, and exploring their first romantic and sexual relationships. Many students also belong to demographics that have a higher statistical risk, such as being trans or Māori.
International data suggests that as many as one in four women will experience sexual violence during their time as a student (Fisher, Daigle, & Cullen, 2009). However, New Zealand has a comparatively high rate of sexual violence, which might account for some older local data where over half of female first-year students at Auckland University reported sexual violence (Gavey, 1991). We hope to collect more up-to-date data as part of the campaign.