Student says ANU let her down after sexual harassment episode

Published in The Canberra Times on August 7 2014.

A Canberra student who alleges she was sexually harassed at an on-campus dormitory says the university’s botched response will leave her $6000 out of pocket.

The woman says the May incident left her feeling so unsafe and anxious that she had been forced to seek counselling and move out of Toad Hall, based at the Australian National University’s Acton campus.

She has now asked the ANU to help cover rent and treatment costs, which she says will cost her more than $6000 this year.

The ANU says the request is under consideration. The university admitted staff had botched the protocols set out to deal with allegations of sexual harassment.

The woman reported the incident to Toad Hall authorities but they failed to follow set procedures. An ANU review in response to the complaint found Toad Hall head Dr Ian Walker’s response to the allegation had been slow and flawed. An ANU investigation into the incident is now under way.

The woman said Toad Hall’s bungled probed made her feel her only options were to drop the case and move out. She left Toad Hall during the semester break after the student against whom she made the complaint had been allowed to stay.

The university agreed to make special arrangements to help find the woman accommodation. But rent on the woman’s new home costs an extra $41 each week, a figure she has asked the university to help her cover. She also requested ANU refund six weeks’ rent she paid to stay at Toad Hall during the inquiry.

An ANU spokeswoman said the university had already accepted there had been a delay in the initiation of its investigative processes.

“Whether this delay resulted in financial hardship for the student concerned is being considered – whether any financial support can be provided to the student concerned will be determined in the course of the next week,” she said.

“The allegations made by the student remain under investigation and the university must stress that statements concerning the financial matters are separate to the investigation into the incident itself.”

The student said that money would also help pay for treatment for anxiety problems caused by the incident.

“The university doesn’t realise what the cost is to me,” she said. “The process was so arduous… They were very happy to get me out of the college, but weren’t interested in investigating it or actually solving the problem.”

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