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Student Access, Progression and Wellbeing

Student Sexual Harm Procedure

Policy Code: SS2047

Purpose

This procedure outlines the choices, supports and steps available to a person disclosing or reporting sexual harm. It also defines available actions the university may undertake in response to a disclosure or report of sexual harm or other sexual safety concern. 

This procedure mandates operational activities and assigns responsibilities to support the implementation of the Student Sexual Harm Policy, which should be read in conjunction with this procedure.

Scope

  1. The prevention of sexual harm through appropriate and respectful behaviours is the responsibility of every member of the Federation University Australia community including its students, staff, visitors and contractors.
  2. This procedure applies to students as the person disclosing or reporting (who has experienced sexual harm). This policy does not apply to staff as the person disclosing or reporting.
  3. This procedure does not apply to reports or disclosures of sexual harm relating to children. Reports or disclosures of sexual harm relating to children are managed under the Child Safe Policy and Procedure.

Legislative Context

  • Federation University Australia Act 2010
  • The Federation University Student Code of Conduct
  • The Federation University Staff Code of Conduct
  • The Federation University Child Safe Policy and Procedure

Definitions

A complete list of definitions relevant to this procedure is contained within the Student Sexual Harm Policy. This procedure should be read together with that policy.

A further list of definitions specifically relevant to this procedure is included below:

TERM DEFINITION
Student Discipline A formal process as outlined in the Federation University Statue and Regulation 6.1 – Student Discipline. A student may be subject to disciplinary action by the university for having perpetrated sexual harm, which would constitute General Misconduct under the Student Discipline regulation.
Reasonable Measures The university may apply reasonable measures to mitigate the impact of sexual harm on a student’s participation at university. The measures must remove or mitigate a barrier to participation, be reasonable in their scope and not materially disadvantage the person named. Reasonable measures may be applied regardless of, or alongside, a formal misconduct process. An example of a reasonable measure may be to request being placed in a different tutorial group, to seek a remission of debt where study was severely disrupted due to the sexual harm or to move to another Federation Living Residence.
Agreed Outcomes An informal process available to a person reporting where they may seek to have the university mediate in requesting agreed behaviours or to refrain from certain behaviours from the person named. The requested outcomes must be of a nature where the person named does not suffer any detrimental consequence (for example requesting that the person named refrain from texting or calling, or not to visit the residential unit of the person reporting). This is a voluntary process and would not constitute a finding of misconduct. Agreed outcomes may not be deemed an appropriate option where there is a perceived risk to the broader university community.
Safer Campuses (Committee) A committee of the university with a mandate to review serious safety matters and determine the most appropriate course of action to protect the safety of the university community
Personal Safety Plan A plan which sets out safety supports and services available to the student and as requested and agreed by the student. The plan is made together with Federation University Security personnel and may include a security escort on and off campus, emergency contact card and increased security presence at certain times or locations.
SOCAIT Unit The specialist Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team of the Victorian Police Force.
CASA Centres Against Sexual Assault. There are CASA services located throughout Victoria. CASA offer support for victim/survivors of sexual assault and also training for staff to appropriately respond to a disclosure of sexual harm.

Advice and Actions

The advice and actions available under this procedure set out a suite of choices and possible steps. They do not have to be followed in a sequential order. The steps taken will be determined based on each individual case, with priority given to a trauma-informed response, respecting the wishes of the person disclosing and/or reporting and also to the broader safety of the Federation University community.

A) Disclosing and Reporting

A1) Difference between disclosing and reporting

  • Any student or concerned member of the Federation University community may disclose or report a matter of sexual harm or sexual safety concern involving a student.
  • Disclosure is when a person seeks to tell someone about a matter they have experienced, witnessed or are involved in with the intent to seek support or advice only.
  • Reporting is when a person seeks to tell someone about such a matter with the intent to request that the university take action toward resolving the matter.
  • Someone may disclose and later choose to report.

A2) How to Disclose or Report

  • Under this procedure, any student, staff member or community member of Federation University Australia may disclose or report a matter of sexual harm or of sexual safety concerning a Federation University student.
  • Disclosures and reports may be made directly to any staff person within the Student Equity and Diversity Unit. Disclosures and reports may also be made through the secure online Student Complaints Portal. 
  • Staff within the Equity and Diversity unit are CASA trained and can provide referrals to support, confidential liaison with other university services including academic consideration, housing and security as well as discuss available options for action by the university under this procedure.

A3) Disclosure or Report to another Federation University staff person or community member

  • Where a student or other person has disclosed or reported a sexual harm or sexual safety concern to any other Federation University staff member, the staff member should follow the guidance in the factsheet.
  • They should provide contact details or referral to Federation University Student Equity and Diversity Unit and also for counselling.
  • The staff person should respect the privacy and choice of the person disclosing or reporting regarding actions or the decision to not take action.
  • The staff person receiving the disclosure may seek confidential advice from the Student Equity and Diversity Unit by de-identifying the person who has disclosed or reported if the matter raises a broader safety concern for the Federation University community or if they need support themselves. 

A4) Disclosure or Report where a serious and immediate safety risk is present

  • Where a disclosure or report of sexual harm is such that there is a clear and present threat or danger, or where there has been serious or life-threatening injury, Federation University security should be contacted (1800 333 732) and the matter reported to police or ambulance as required.
  • Disclosure of a recent sexual assault does not constitute a present threat to safety unless the perpetrator is still present and has made further threats to harm or is behaving in a dangerous, violent or threatening way.
  • Disclosure of a recent sexual assault does not constitute a serious or life-threatening injury unless the person harmed is showing signs of injury that require immediate medical attention or is threatening self-harm.  
  • Unless there is an immediate and present threat to safety, respect the choice of the person who has experienced sexual harm and do not call the police or ambulance on their behalf.

A5) Time between a matter arising and disclosing or reporting

  • There is no limit placed on the time it may take between a matter arising and a person choosing to disclose or report. The options and actions available to both the person disclosing/reporting and the university, however, may be impacted by how much time has lapsed.
  • Where a disclosure or report is made of a historical matter which has occurred prior to the person named becoming a student or staff member of Federation University, the university will be unable to pursue formal misconduct processes. The person disclosing or reporting in this instance will be offered referral and support to access Federation University counselling, external support such as CASA and assistance, if chosen, in reporting to the SOCAIT unit of the police.  The person reporting or disclosing may also seek support from the university by requesting reasonable measures. As the university can make no finding on historical allegations, the measures may benefit the person reporting but must not cause material detriment to the person named.

B) Options and Available Actions

B1) Disclosing - Support and Practical Help

  • When a person discloses sexual harm or a sexual safety concern they may just want someone to listen and acknowledge their experience. Any person receiving a disclosure should show empathy and acknowledge the distress or difficulty experienced by the person disclosing.
  • The person disclosing should be provided this Sexual Harm and Sexual Safety Concern Procedure as well as the Sexual Harm and Sexual Safety Concern Policy so that they can understand their rights and options.
  • Access to specialist supports provided by the university and appropriate external agencies should be offered, which include:
    1. Referral or contact details for the Student Equity and Diversity Unit (if the disclosure was made elsewhere). Student Equity can assist with personal safety plans, academic special consideration, housing support and deferral of fee (if inability to complete coursework is due to the matter disclosed).
    2. Referral or contact details for Federation University Counselling
    3. Referral or contact details for Federation University doctors or affiliated health professionals (as required)
    4. Referral or contact details for the Sexual Assault Crisis Line (Victoria 1800 806 292) or 1800 Respect (Australia wide).
  • Supports should be offered as options which the person disclosing may choose to take up or not at their discretion.

B2) Reporting - Informal Resolution

  • A report, where action by the university is requested, must be made directly by the person who has had the experience of sexual harm or who is the subject of a sexual safety concern.
  • The person named must be a current Federation University student or staff member.  
  • A person reporting may request the university undertake the following informal actions:
    1. Reasonable measures.  Reasonable measures are changes that can be made to remove a barrier to participation in university or TAFE activities or reduce the impact of harm. Reasonable measures can be made in the situation where the person reporting does not want the person named to know that a complaint has been made, or they can be made concurrent with a formal misconduct process.  
    2. Agreed Outcomes. Agreed Outcomes are reached through mediation by a university staff member with the person named (where the person named is a current student) on behalf of the person reporting. The person or persons named are provided with this procedure and the process is explained to them. The complaint as well as the nature of the alleged behaviours is described. They are given an opportunity to respond. Once they have responded, a set of actions requested by the person reporting are outlined and the person named has the opportunity to agree to adhere to them or not. The outcomes requested must not materially disadvantage the person named (as there is no formal investigation or finding of wrong – see Natural Justice). Agreeing to outcomes does not constitute an admission of the behaviours or a finding of misconduct.
      Examples of agreed outcomes may be: “Agree to not contact the person reporting by phone, text or online”, “Agree to not visit the residential unit of the person reporting”,  “Not approach the person reporting”
    3. Provide Respectful Relationship Training. Respectful Relationship Training can be provided to a particular cohort of students on an as needs basis (in addition to the semester commencement training delivered at Orientation). This can be arranged with Student Equity and Diversity at the request of a complainant or supporting staff person and must be negotiated in consultation with the professional staff or course coordinator and deemed appropriate to the cohort.

B3) Reporting - Formal Resolution

  • A formal action by the university may be taken where a person reporting has requested such an intervention or where the university considers that the conduct reported is of a serious nature and/or other members of the university community are at risk of harm.
  • The person named must be a current Federation University student or staff member.
  • All formal resolutions follow the principals of natural justice and any student who is the named person in such a matter will have an opportunity to respond and seek support and advice.
  • A formal action by the university may include the following:
    1. Student Discipline: Under the University’s Regulation 6.1 of the Federation University Act, the university may notify the person named that it is alleged they have behaved in a way that constitutes General Misconduct and that they are requested to attend a formal hearing. The Committee will determine outcomes including penalty. 
    2. Report under the staff Misconduct Clause of the University Enterprise Agreement
      • Where the person named is a staff-member of Federation University:
        1. The alleged behaviours are provided to the staff person in a formal correspondence and they have ten working days to respond in writing.
        2. If they admit the behaviours, the matter is referred to the Vice-Chancellor for decision. Penalties may include a censure or other penalties available as outlined in the Enterprise Agreement or termination of employment.
        3. If they deny the allegation in full or in part, the matter will proceed to a full investigation and the outcome will be based on the balance of probabilities.
    3. Report under the (TAFE) Managing Misconduct Procedure for staff
      • Where the person named is a staff-member of Federation TAFE:
        1. The alleged behaviours are provided to the staff person in a formal correspondence and they have ten working days to respond in writing.
        2. If they admit the behaviours, the matter is referred to the Vice-Chancellor for decision. Penalties may include a censure or other penalties available as outlined in the Enterprise Agreement or termination of employment.
        3. If they deny the allegation in full or in part, the matter will proceed to a full investigation and the outcome will be based on the balance of probabilities.
    4. Report under possible breach of contract   
      • A report may be made to the contract manager, or to the Chief Operating Officer, where it is alleged an employee or owner of a contracted organisation has behaved in a way that contravenes workplace or discrimination legislation.

B4) Reporting Externally

  • Federation University staff can support any person within their university community who chooses to report to an external body such as the police. In matters of sexual harm it is advised to report to the SOCAIT unit of the police. The Student Equity and Diversity office can support making contact with police and a staff person can attend as a support with a student who chooses to report to police for sexual harm.
  • The university will not report individual matters to the police unless the matter poses a serious safety threat to the broader Federation University community.
  • Should a matter reported to Federation University become the subject of a criminal investigation or be pursued through the courts, Federation University will cease any formal internal actions pending the external outcome

C) Confidentiality, Transparency and Referral

C1) Confidentiality when Disclosing

  • When a person discloses (a matter of sexual harm or a sexual safety concern) they have the right to their information being treated in a confidential way.
  • The person receiving the disclosure should inform the person disclosing that their information will be kept confidential unless there is a legitimate reason to share the information.
  • A legitimate reason may be because a reasonable assessment has been made that:
    1. There is a risk to safety of the person disclosing/reporting
    2. There is a risk to the safety of the broader university community
  • Personal information will be de-identified wherever possible. Information will also be de-identified for reporting purposes.
  • Information will be shared in these instance on a need-to-know basis.
  • Matters that are identified as posing a significant safety risk to the person disclosing or the broader university community may be brought to and discussed at the Safer Campuses committee.

C2) Confidentiality when Reporting

  • When a person reports a matter of sexual harm, with the intent that the university take action through agreed outcomes or student discipline, the name of the person reporting and the nature of the alleged sexual harm behaviours may be provided to:
    1. The person named (through formal notification of misconduct letter from the university)
    2.  A decision-making person (such as a Dean of school) or
    3.  A decision-making body (such as Student Discipline or Safer Campuses Committee).
  • Information will be de-identified for reporting purposes.
  • Information will be shared in these instance on a need-to-know basis.

C3) Transparency

  • When a person discloses or reports they should be provided the Student Sexual Harm Policy and Procedure and assisted to understand their rights and options under those documents.
  • The person disclosing or reporting should be kept informed, in a timely way, of the progress of their matter and any actions arising from their matter that concern them.
  • The person disclosing or reporting should be told if their information needs to be shared and the reason why. They should know who has been told, details about what has been shared and if they have been identified or the information was shared in a de-identified way.

C4) Referral and/or Secondary Consultation

  • It may be appropriate or necessary to refer the person disclosing or reporting to another staff person of the university or to an external agency for assistance.
  • This should be done with the consent of the person disclosing or reporting, or in the case of reporting due to a broader safety risk, with their knowledge.
  • When referring, the person disclosing or reporting should understand how and to whom they are being introduced.
  • There should be an agreement about the information shared.
  • When seeking a secondary consultation (asking for advice) from another specialist area such as security, counselling, or an external agency, the same rules of consent and agreement about what will be shared should be followed.

D) Victimisation

D1) Zero Tolerance of Victimisation

  • Federation University has a zero tolerance approach to victimisation and any act of victimisation will be viewed as an escalation of the already alleged behaviours.
  • Immediate actions may be taken by the university to protect a person disclosing or reporting from further victimisation, which may include temporary exclusion of the respondent from campuses or study, pending a formal hearing or investigation.

E) Collection and sharing of data

E1) Record keeping and reporting

  • Federation University staff receiving a disclosure or report of sexual harm or a sexual safety concern are required to make a confidential record of the complaint and store the information in a secure manner.
  • De-identified notification of the complaint (including both disclosures and reports) should be made to Student Equity and Diversity for whole-of-institution data reporting.
  • The university will collect de-identified data regarding the number and nature of such complaints to be able to understand and improve both prevention and responses to sexual harm.
  • Federation University may be obligated to make de-identified data publicly available about the number of complaints, gender of the person disclosing/reporting and person/s named and very general nature of the matters (sexual harassment, sexual assault, for instance).
  • Nothing that might identify either an individual or a particular matter would be collected in the aggregated data and reported

Responsibility

  • Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) as Chair Respect Now Always Committee and as the Approval Authority is responsible for monitoring the implementation, outcomes and scheduled review of this procedure.
  • Manager, Student Equity and Diversity is responsible for maintaining the content of this procedure as delegated by the Approval Authority.

Promulgation

The Student Sexual Harm Procedure will be communicated throughout the University via:

  1. A FedNews announcement and on the ‘Recently Approved Documents’ page on the University’s Policy Central website
  2. Distribution of e-mails to Head of School / Head of Department / University staff; and/or
  3. Documentation distribution

Implementation

This policy will be implemented throughout the University via:

  1. Reporting, documentation and response through the Federation University Safer Campuses webpage and Federation University Online Complaints System
  2. Actions as outlined in the Prevention and Response to Sexual Harm Plan of the Respect Now Always Committee

Records Management

As per section E1 above.