Half a million international students, most of them from Asia, are enrolled to study in Australia. It’s the country’s third-largest export industry, worth $18 billion. But Australia’s reputation as a safe and sunny place to study is under threat after widespread disclosures of rape and sexual assault.
Far from home and family, international students can be particularly vulnerable. Most international students are too scared or too ashamed to speak up if they have been targeted, but some young women have agreed to reveal their stories to 101 East.
“I got pushed on the bed and I got raped,” says Leu, a Chinese student at the Australian National University. “He kept saying, ‘I’ll get what I want’. I couldn’t move, I could only scream.”A survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission found 22,000 students said they had experienced sexual assault in a university setting in the years 2015 or 2016.
Few students press charges against their alleged perpetrators. International students like Leu say they are afraid of potential repercussions and the stigma surrounding rape. “We thought back then that Australian law only protects Australians. And if we report things like this, they probably think we are causing trouble for them and we probably would get deported, can’t finish our school,” says Leu.
When students do report alleged assaults, women’s advocates say universities often fail to provide appropriate support. As universities face a crisis over the shocking levels of sexual harassment and assault, 101 East investigates how foreign students have become prey on Australian campuses.
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