Safety and Wellbeing Sexual Harassment & Sexual Assault

Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated, and where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstances.  

Sexual harassment is unlawful when it falls within the relevant statutory definition under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) and/or the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). Indecent exposure and stalking are criminal behaviours.

Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Displays of sexually graphic materials including posters, cartoons or messages left on noticeboards, desks or common areas
  • Repeated invitations to develop a closer or intimate relationship after prior refusal
  • Unwelcome and uncalled for remarks or insinuations about a person's sex or private life
  • Comments of a sexually suggestive nature about a person's appearance or body
  • Sexually offensive phone calls
  • Offensive emails and text messages of a sexual nature
  • Unwanted sexual attention using internet, social networking sites and mobile phones
  • Sexually offensive screensavers or posters
  • A publication, such as sexually offensive emails or graphics
  • Threats online of a sexual nature
  • Revenge porn
  • Sexual propositions
  • Indecent exposure
  • Stalking
  • Pressuring a student or staff member to engage in sexual behaviour for some educational or employment benefit, or
  • Making a real or perceived threat that rejecting sexual behaviour will carry a negative consequence for the student in education, accommodation, or University programme or activity.

What is not sexual harassment:

Sexual harassment is not interaction, flirtation or friendship which is mutual of consensual.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any unwanted or forced sexual activity without a person's consent.

Assault occurs when a person:

  • Touches another person inappropriately without their consent – groping is a form of sexual assault
  • Forces another person against their will to commit an act of gross indecency – a sexual act that does not involve penetration, for example a person forces another person to touch their genitals
  • Forces another person to see an act of gross indecency, for example the person masturbates in front of the other person.

Rape is the most serious form of sexual assault – forcing someone to have sexual intercourse without his or her consent. Rape includes forcing someone to perform oral sex, digital penetration, and inserting any object into the vulva, vagina or anus of another person without their consent.

Consent means the free and voluntary agreement to participate in an activity which may include an intimate or sexual relationship given by a person with the cognitive capacity to do so.

Consent is not freely and voluntarily given if the person is:

  • Under force;
  • Unconscious or asleep;
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • Under threat or intimidation;
  • ‚ÄčIn fear of bodily harm;
  • Subjected to the exercise of authority;
  • Under false or fraudulent representations about the nature or purpose of the act, or
  • Under a mistaken belief that the offender was someone else (for example, their sexual partner).

In Queensland people under the age of 16 cannot consent to sex or sexual activity.

The Thames Valley Police, in the UK developed a short video in 2015 to demonstrate what constitutes consent by demonstrating sexual consent is as straightforward as making a cup of tea:

Consent is about good communication. When engaging in sexual activity:

  • Communication about consent involves words as well as gestures, and it must be clear, without a doubt, that there is a definite YES. The absence of ‘no’ is not consent;
  • Consent should never be assumed;
  • Consent needs to happen every time. So, agreeing to sex in the past does not mean automatic consent is given to sex in the future. This includes if you are married or in a relationship;
  • Consent is specific, so agreeing to one kind of sexual activity does not mean agreeing to other kinds of sexual activity;
  • Consent is an ongoing conversation and can be withdrawn at any point.

Sexual Misconduct Officers

You can talk with a JCU Sexual Misconduct Officer about any matter that is causing you concern - no matter how big or small the issue may seem.

Sexual Misconduct Officers provide a single point of contact at JCU for a person who has been subjected to sexual harassment or sexual assault, or to any person supporting that person. Sexual Misconduct Officers can assist people to access support services, and/or to make a report or a complaint.

What to do if you have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted

It's never your fault

You are not responsible for other people's behaviours. You have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. You have a right to privacy, and confidentiality, you can refuse to answer any questions. You have a right not to be judged based on your age, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity and/or cultural background. You have a right to ask questions and get answers. You have a right to decide what happens.

Speaking with a counsellor can help with managing the impact of sexual harassment. Students can access a counsellor through Student Equity and Wellbeing (Townsville 4781 4711 or Cairns 4232 1150), and staff can call LifeWorks on 1800 604 640.

The Specialist Sexual Assault Services provide specialist, free, confidential support (24 hours by phone Australia-wide, and 24 hours in person response in Townsville and Cairns).

The Specialist Sexual Assault Services have support workers who can meet you and can offer ways to help you manage the physical and emotional affects you may be experiencing. They can explain and assist with legal and medial options, including any emergency health care of forensic examinations, and, any decisions about reporting to police.

The Specialist Sexual Assault Services can also assist you to access support from JCU to continue studying or working if you wish. They will ensure your decisions are communicated and respected. JCU Sexual Misconduct Officers can also assist you to connect with the specialist services.

JCU's Sexual Misconduct Officers can assist you with working out what support you need to continue your study or work. Support includes, for example, safety plans, short term emergency housing, or changes to class scheduling, assessment, or work reporting lines. Support can be provided without identifying the other person/people involved.

Attend to safety - Check if there are any immediate safety concerns. You can ask: “Do you feel safe?" "Do you need any medical attention?”

Remember:  Call 000 for ambulance or police in an emergency.   Call 000, THEN call JCU Security if the incident is on-campus 1800 675 559

Listen and be supportive - It can be very hard for someone to disclose sexual harassment or sexual assault. Give the person your full attention. Speak calmly, let them tell you at their own pace, without interrupting or asking direct questions about the experience. Silences are ok - you don't have to rush in with words. Letting someone take charge of what they disclose also enables them to reclaim some of the control that has been taken away.

Believe them - One thing people fear most after they experience sexual harassment or sexual assault is that they won't be believed. Don't question the person's account. Do not ask ‘why’ questions - these questions carry blame and judgement. You may find that the person's narrative is disjointed and has inconsistencies; this can be an effect of distress or trauma and not an indication that they are being untruthful. Remember that sexual harassment and sexual assault is never the fault of the person who has been subjected to it.

Maintain confidentiality - It is up to the person to decide who they tell, when and how, and they are trusting you to respect that. Treat what is shared with you confidentially, do not share with others without permission. You can report an incident to JCU that someone has disclosed to you without breaching confidentiality, and there are specific instructions on how to do that below.

Refer to support - Remember you do not have to have all, or any of the answers - and it is not helpful to try and find out all of the details. The best thing you can do is assist the person to connect with those who can help, including with the specialist Sexual Assault Services, and JCU's Sexual Misconduct Officers, as required.

Take care of yourself - It can be confronting to support someone impacted by sexual harassment or sexual assault. You can call the Specialist Sexual Assault Services to confidentially debrief. Students can also debrief with a counsellor at Student Equity and Wellbeing and staff can call the Employee Assistance Program - Lifeworks on 1800 604640. JCU's Sexual Misconduct Officers can provide support to you whilst you are supporting a person who has disclosed to you.

The following resource provides guidance if you are supporting someone who has been sexually harassed.

The following resources will provide guidance if you have been accused of sexual misconduct.

Reporting an Incident of Sexual Misconduct to JCU

We acknowledge that reporting sexual harassment or sexual assault can be a difficult decision, and that a person must feel safe and confident that any report they make will be treated appropriately. JCU’s policy and procedures are designed to put the wellbeing and needs of the person who has been subjected to sexual harassment or sexual assault first, and will act in line with their wishes.

We encourage any person to report any incident of sexual harassment or sexual assault by, or toward, a member of the University community. It is possible to make an anonymous report to JCU, and it is possible to make a report without identifying any other person/people involved.

Reports enable JCU to identify patterns (in behaviors or in areas of the University) and monitor progress towards eliminating sexual harassment and sexual assault. If the identity and contact details of the person subjected to the sexual harassment or sexual assault are provided in the report, information provision and support to that person can be facilitated.

JCU will act in line with the wishes of the person who has been subjected to sexual harassment or sexual assault, if that person has been identified (see 'who sees the report for exceptional circumstances where JCU may be required to act otherwise). In all cases, the incident will be confidentially recorded. The Sexual Misconduct Officers can discuss options for addressing the problem. For example with sexual harassment, depending on what the person wishes, the options could include:

  • taking no immediate action;
  • the supervisor, or next level manager, or College Dean, resetting expectations about the offending behaviour with the other person/people;
  • the requirement for the other person/people to undertake internally provided training;
  • an apology being made;
  • a complaint being made.

The report will only be accessed by the Sexual Misconduct Officers. Information provided will be confidentially managed, stored and archived in accordance with JCU’s Discrimination, Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Policy, Record Management and Information Privacy Policies. Reports are kept strictly confidential except in exceptional and very limited circumstances, for example, where there is an immediate and serious risk to others. In such circumstances, JCU may either a) elevate the report to a complaint, or b) notify third parties, such as the Police or child protection authorities.

Making a report is different to making a complaint. A complaint may involve an investigation, and University disciplinary processes may be taken against a Respondent. Sexual Misconduct Officers can advise and provide options about making a complaint as set out in the Sexual Harassment Procedure, and the Sexual Assault Procedure.

You are able to make an anonymous report but the actions that are possible in response to anonymous reports are limited.

Sexual Misconduct Officers can assist people to access support, and/or make a report or complaint in line with the Bullying, Discrimination, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Policy and the  JCU Sexual Harassment Procedure. and JCU Sexual Assault Procedure

It is always up to the person who has been subjected to the sexual harassment or sexual assault to decide if they wish to report to Police. The specialist Sexual Assault Services can provide support in making that decision. (Note: there are exceptional and very limited circumstances when JCU may make a report directly to Police, for example, if there is an immediate and serious risk to others).

If the person who is the victim/survivor is under 18 years of age, JCU has legal mandatory reporting obligations to notify Police, please contact a Sexual Misconduct Officer for immediate advice.

You can report sexual assault or sexual harassment to Queensland Police at any time. It is possible to make an anonymous report to Police.

Who can make a Report

We encourage any person to report any incident of sexual harassment or sexual assault by, or toward, a member of the University community.

Report an incident that you have been subjected to. You are able to, but do not have to, identify yourself or the other people involved in the incident. You are able to provide as much or as little information as you feel comfortable to share.

Report an incident that someone has disclosed to you. You should advise the person who has disclosed to you that you are providing a report.  You must NOT provide details that could identify the person unless you have their consent to do so.

Report an incident that you are aware of through other means, for example, you were a bystander, or have been made aware of indirectly, (such as sexual harassment that happened to someone else in a lecture that you attended, or a sexual assault being shared on social media) you can provide any details without approaching or contacting the people who are directly impacted or involved.