Information for staff and students of UON about sexual misconduct, sexual assault, sexual consent and support

Information about sexual misconduct

If you require the services of a translator please contact Campus Care.

Sexual misconduct is a term in the University framework used to describe any sexually based assault and/or harassment.

It can affect anybody regardless of gender or sexuality.

It includes behaviour that is not consensual, is threatening, intimidating or coercive. This includes but is not limited to; sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism and/or intimidation and may involve electronic forms of communication.

Sexual assault is any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature to which you have not agreed or consented.

If someone forces you to engage in sexual activity, it is still sexual assault even if:

  • You were intoxicated at the time of the assault;
  • You have consented to sex with that person in the past;
  • You love the person who assaulted you;
  • You have consented to some sexual acts, such as touching, but not others;
  • The person who assaulted you is your partner; or
  • You submitted due to the person being in a position of power.

Sexual consent is given when someone actively agrees to sexual activity. Sexual consent is not a ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ response.

You must get consent each and every time, for each and every sexual activity, with each and every person. Consent can never be assumed.

Sexual consent can be taken away at any time during a sexual encounter: people have the right to change their mind.

A person is unable to give consent when:

  • Asleep, unconscious, or significantly affected by drugs or alcohol;
  • Unable to understand what they are consenting to;
  • Surrendering from fear, threat, force of harm to themselves or someone else; or
  • Pressured, forced or coerced into having sex.

Even if the person does not protest or physically resist, it does not mean that they consented to the sexual activity.

You can read more about sexual consent or check out the Consent Matters Course online.

Everyone reacts differently. There is no right or wrong way to react.

Responses may cover a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms. It is common for individuals to continue to experience a number of thoughts, images and feelings for some days, or even weeks following the trauma.

The experience of sexually based assault or harassment can be very difficult and isolating, but there are a number of people who can help you.

What can I do to help me cope with the effects?

It is normal to feel the effects of this type of incident in your body, mind, emotions, interactions with others, and in your beliefs about yourself and the world. It is important to take care of yourself and access the support available to you. The impact of trauma reactions change over time, as your body and mind adjust to what has happened.

Immediately after the event you may find it helpful to:

  • Remind yourself that the event is over and you are now safe.
  • Be around people you trust rather than going home to an empty house. You could ask a friend or relative to stay with you.
  • Try to avoid stimulants (such as tea, coffee, chocolate, or cigarettes) because these can make your body agitated in an already stressful situation.
  • Try to avoid alcohol, sedatives or sleeping pills. It can be more helpful to focus on positive coping strategies such as seeking support.
  • Try to eat something, even if you do not feel like eating.
  • Try to get some rest. If you can’t sleep allow yourself time to do something relaxing for brief periods throughout the day. It is common to feel exhausted after trauma.
  • Talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust e.g. a friend, counsellor or family member.

There are many options available for support and advice.

Information available at these links provides advice on recovering from sexual assault for people identifying as male or female.

Please visit our 'Talking to someone' page for a list of other resources available to you.

There are a few different options available to report. These include making a formal report to police, making an informal report to police, making a formal report to UON or making an informal disclosure to UON via Campus Care.

The option you choose may depend on many factors, such as where the incident occurred and what you would like the outcome to be. Please visit our 'Reporting' pages for more information on the different options available.

This is not something you have to deal with on your own. Talking to someone may help you to understand and deal with your physical and emotional reactions.

Who you decide to tell about what has happened is up to you. The following questions can help when thinking about who to tell.

Will this person:

  • Respect my privacy?
  • Listen and not blame me?
  • Let me decide what to do?
  • Be prepared to support me during this difficult time?

You may choose to seek support from friends or family members or other people you trust. If you are unsure, you can talk to Campus Care or a Counsellor who can support you through the process while respecting your privacy, listening without blaming you and allowing you to decide what you wish to do.

If you have experienced sexually based assault it is recommended that you see a doctor for a health check.

Some common health concerns you could discuss with the doctor include injuries, concerns about pregnancy, concerns about sexually transmissable infections (STIs), or other health concerns such as sleeping difficulties or eating problems, feeling sick, aches and pains and difficulties going to the toilet, etc.

If the assault was recent and you are considering making a report to the police, you may need a forensic medical examination to collect evidence for court. It is important to remember that not all doctors can perform a forensic medical examination as it requires special conditions. Most major hospitals in NSW have forensic services, including John Hunter Hospital in the Newcastle area. For a list of services please visit our 'Talking to someone' page.  The Newcastle Sexual Assault Service can also undertake a forensic medical examination, using a Sexual Assault Investigation Kit (SAIK).

Experiencing sexually based assault or harassment can have a huge impact on your concentration and motivation for your studies. Campus Care can help in many ways such as arranging additional time for assignments or rescheduling exams. Please contact Campus Care for assistance coordinating this process across all of your courses. You will not have to repeat all the details of the assault in order to obtain a letter of support, and your course coordinators will not need to know about the assault unless you wish to disclose it.

If you do not think that you will be able to complete the semester/trimester, you can consider applying for a leave of absence. This means that you would take up to one academic year of a break from study.

If you are unsure about what to do, please contact Campus Care who will be able to talk to you about your options.

If someone has told you that they have experienced sexual misconduct, there are a few things you can do to support them. Please visit our 'Supporting someone' page for more information.