Sexual misconduct

Information for University of Melbourne students and staff.

Content warning:
This website includes information on sexual harassment and sexual assault and may be distressing for some people. For support, contact the Safer Community Program.


The University of Melbourne is committed to eliminating and preventing sexual misconduct from its community and prioritising the safety and wellbeing of everyone who experiences it.

Where sexual misconduct does occur, we aim to provide a supportive and trauma-informed response that prioritises the safety and wellbeing of victim-survivors.

If you have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment, you have the right to seek support and advice. The University will support you through this process.

If you choose to take action, you have a range of options for how to do so. Whatever decision you make, our trauma-informed staff can guide you through your options, connect you to the most appropriate support and assist with the reporting process.

Sexual misconduct

What is sexual misconduct?

The University of Melbourne uses the term sexual misconduct to describe any sexual act or behaviour that a person does not consent to, including sexual assault (and other sexual offences) and sexual harassment.

Sexual misconduct is unacceptable.

If you have experienced sexual misconduct, you have the right to seek support and advice. The University will support you through this process.

Sexual assault

The following provides information about sexual assault.

What is sexual assault?

The term sexual assault is broad, and is when:

  • A person is touched in an intentionally sexual way
  • Without their consent and,
  • They feel uncomfortable, frightened, or threatened.

Sexual assault can occur alongside other sexual offences, which can include:

  • Unwanted touching of the breasts, buttocks, or genitals.
  • Being made to touch someone’s breasts, buttocks or genitals
  • Forced and unwanted kissing
  • Rape (forced penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth by a body part or object)
  • Being forced to have sex or engage in any sexual activity with someone else
  • Forced viewing of pornography or being made to watch other sexual acts
  • Stealthing (removal of condoms during sex without the consent of the other person).

Certain types of sexual offences can also occur online, such as:

  • Sharing of private images or videos
  • Being sent nude photos or livestream sexual acts
  • Forced to engage in sexual acts for viewing or recording.

Things to know about sexual assault

Sexual assault and other sexual offences can impact people of all ages, abilities, genders, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds.

In many instances, sexual assault is perpetrated by people we know and occurs in the context of trusted relationships with intimate partners, family members or work/study colleagues.

Any type of sexual contact without consent can be sexual assault or an offence. A person cannot give their consent if they are unconscious or asleep, if they are frightened or threatened, affected by alcohol or drugs, or unable to say what they do or don’t want.

Sexual assault and other sexual offences are never the fault of the victim, despite the myths that that exist around what people wear, how much they have had to drink and whether they resisted or not.

Sexual assaults generally go unreported because people feel that they won’t be believed or what happened to them wasn’t sufficiently serious. Sometimes people feel like it was their fault because they were drinking, or they didn’t resist. Sexual assault laws have changed to provide better protection to victims and to remove the focus on what they did or didn’t do, and to place responsibility on the actions of the perpetrator.

Frequently asked questions

  • Can sexual assault happen in a relationship?

    In many cases, sexual assault or other sexual offences occurs in the context of relationships with people we know and trust, such as partners, family members and friends. Sexual assault can happen at home, at social events or at places we work or study.

  • Is it okay to change your mind during sex?

    You can change your mind at any stage, before or during sex. It is up to the person you are having sex with to check whether or not you are ok with what’s happening and stop if that is what you want to do.

  • I was drinking at the time; can it still be a sexual assault?

    It doesn’t matter if you were drinking, using drugs, what you were wearing, or who you were with. If you did not consent-it is still sexual assault or another sexual offence.

  • Do I have to report a sexual assault to the police?

    You do not have to report a sexual assault or any other form of sexual offence if you do not want to. Whatever you decide is okay.  You can also change your mind and make a report to the police, if and when you want to.

  • Am I safe at university?

    The rates of sexual assault university compare with that in the broader community.  The University is committed to ensuring its campuses, colleges, events, and online spaces are safe and respectful. We have 24/7 security in around campus, security escorts and blue phones if you need help straight away. Download the Safezone app for more information about safety at the University.

  • I think I have been sexually assaulted, what should I do?

    The choice is yours. If you are hurt or unsafe you are encouraged to contact emergency services on 000. You can also contact University security for help on 83446666.

    You can talk to the Safer Community Program, who will support and connect you to specialist services, when and if you want them.

Sexual harassment

The following provides information about sexual harassment.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual behaviour which makes a make a person feel offended, humiliated, or intimidated.

Sexual harassment can occur in face-to-face interactions, in writing or online. It can happen once or as a pattern of behaviour. Sexual harassment impacts people of all ages, abilities, genders, sexual orientations and cultural backgrounds.

People have the right not to be sexually harassed at work, study, where they live, shop or socialise. There are equal opportunity laws to protect them from this type of behaviour and from being treated badly if they make a complaint.

Some examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Staring, leering or unwelcome touching
  • Suggestive comments or jokes
  • Unwanted invitations to go out on dates or requests for sex
  • Intrusive questions about a person's private life or body
  • Unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person
  • Emailing pornography or explicit content
  • Displaying images of a sexual nature around the workplace
  • Communicating content of a sexual nature through social media or text messages.

Some types of sexual harassment are also criminal offences such as indecent exposure, stalking and sexual assault. Other offences relate to obscene or threatening phone calls, letters, emails, text messages and posts on social media.

Things to know about sexual harassment

When formally deciding whether something is sexual harassment, the ‘reasonable person’ standard is used. This tests what happened, against what a reasonable person would do or think in the same situation. For example, would a reasonable person think that making an offensive and sexual comment about a person’s appearance at work is okay? Probably not.

The argument - if someone told me they didn’t like what I was doing, I wouldn’t have done it, does not apply. It is up to the person engaging in the behaviour to stop, without waiting until someone objects or calls them out.

The other argument – I didn’t mean to upset anyone, also doesn’t apply. The focus of sexual harassment is on the impact of the behaviour, and not on the intention of the person doing it. A joke can still be offensive and humiliating.

A person can experience sexual harassment even if they are not the primary target of the behaviour. Sexual harassment can occur if a person overhears a sexual conversation in the staff room, views explicit images in passing like a screen saver, or a poster in the workplace.

Frequently asked questions

  • What if it’s a joke?

    Jokes do count and they can be offensive, threatening and intimating. You don’t have to put up with offensive jokes if you are at work or studying.

  • I don’t want to go out with my manager, but they keep asking me.

    You don’t have to go out with your manager and you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so. In your workplace, your manager is legally required to stop asking you out. Unwanted and repeated requests for dates or sex, can be sexual harassment.

  • They said they didn’t mean to upset me; they were just paying me a compliment. Why does it still feel wrong?

    It doesn’t matter if they didn’t mean to upset you. If the interaction was sexual and unwanted, and if you feel offended or humiliated, it could be sexual harassment.

  • Is forwarding a sexually explicit email OK?

    Even if you didn’t generate an email, you are still responsible for sending it on and then potentially engaging in sexually harassing behaviour.

    Delete it, don’t send it on.

  • Is flirting or sexting wrong?

    Sexual harassment is not the same as mutual flirting, consensual sex, mutual sexting with a partner or asking someone out and accepting it when they say no.

    Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual behaviour that leaves a person offended and humiliated.

The following provides information about consent.

What is consent?

Consent is giving full and informed agreement, before or during any type of sexual contact or activity.

When sexual contact or activity does occur without a person’s consent, this could be sexual assault or another type of sexual offence.

Consent means having:

  • An understanding and being ok with the type of sexual contact or activity
  • Clear knowledge of who and how many people are or will be involved
  • Nothing stopping you from saying no or changing your mind at any time.

This means consent cannot be given if a person is:

  • Asleep, unconscious or so affected by alcohol or drugs that they can’t express their wishes
  • Injured or scared for their safety
  • Coerced by someone directly or by the power and position they may hold.

Consent must be given all the time, every time.

Consent and young people

In Victoria, the age of consent is 16. This means a person aged 16 can have sex with another person who is 16 years of age or older, unless that person has a caring or supervisory responsibility (for example is their teacher, coach, foster carer).

To protect the safety and wellbeing of people under the age of 16, there are additional rules:

  • It is illegal to engage in any type of sexual activity with a child 12 years and under
  • People aged 12-15 years can have sex, but only if the other person is no more than two years older than them.

Things to know about consent

Consent is more than saying yes or no at the start of sex.

Consent must be present every time a person has sex, and it must be present all of the time during sex. Affirmative consent means checking in with the person that they are ok with everything that’s happening and providing them the opportunity to change their mind or stop, if they want to.

If someone is asleep, they can’t continue to give consent or change their mind. If sex continues under these circumstances, this might be sexual assault or another sexual offence.

If a person is drunk or out of it and agree to have sex, and then fall asleep, they haven’t really given their consent. If they are asleep, they can’t continue to give consent or change their mind. If sex continues under these circumstances, this is sexual assault or another sexual offence.

If someone is in a position of power of a person, giving fully informed consent is not always possible. A person may feel coerced, vulnerable or pressured into having sex, even if they say yes. This can happen in teacher/student, employer/employee relationships or in the context of intimate partner violence.

Consent also is required when sharing intimate photos or videos of a person. Doing so without consent, or threatening to do so could be a sexual offence and against the law.

A person can give their consent in a number of ways- verbally (for example saying yes), or through body language (for example nodding) or gestures (for example removing clothes).

Frequently asked questions

  • We hooked up and agreed to use a condom, but they took it off during sex. Is this against the law?

    Stealthing is a sexual offence and against the law.

    Stealthing also includes agreeing to use a condom but not using it all, or deliberately damaging it during sex.

  • Is it okay to change my mind during sex even if I initiated it?

    You have the right to change your mind at any time during sex. You also have the right to agree to one type of sexual activity but not to another, or not to have sex again with the same person in the future.

  • I passed out at party and then work up to someone having sex with me. I was drinking so can I take it further?

    If you passed out, you couldn’t consent to having sex.

    The fact that you were drinking does not matter. You can take it further by reporting this to the police, and you may want to get specialist support to do this and for anything else you need.

  • I didn’t want to have sex, but I didn’t say no because I was scared. Does this count as assault or harassment?

    If you were scared and you felt threatened you were not in the position to give your consent to sex. You may have frozen and said nothing at all, which can happen when someone is feeling threatened. Not saying no, isn’t the same as giving your consent.

    Get support to talk this over and to decide what’s next for you.

  • I’m not a mind reader - how can I tell if someone is consenting?

    Agreeing that there is consent to sex involves clearly communicating by checking in before and throughout sex. You can use questions like:

    • “Do you want…”
    • “Can I…”
    • “Is it okay if…”
    • “Is this still okay?”

    It is important to stop if the answer is no, if there is any uncertainty or if there is no response.

    People will let you know if they are consenting through what they say, or through very clear physical cues such as nodding. It’s up to you to keep checking in and making sure.

    A person is not indicating consent if they are scared, have passed out, fallen asleep, or are too drunk or drug-affected to communicate.

Our commitment

The University is committed to preventing sexual misconduct and building a culture that is safe and respectful.

Our policies, training for students and staff, support services and more transparent complaint processes have contributed to a greater awareness of sexual misconduct and the standards of behaviour we expect from everyone, every day.

At the University, sexual misconduct is never acceptable and prohibited:

  • In the classroom-face to face or online
  • On campus and university buildings
  • In colleges, university accommodation
  • At university organised events and activities
  • In any written verbal or visual communication
  • In any interactions between students and staff

Where it does occur students and staff can get support from the Safer Community Program or make a complaint via the Academic Registrar’s office (about students) or via their line manager and HR Business Partner (about staff). If this is not an option, staff can contact the Inappropriate Workplace Behaviour Line.

Complaints can also be made via the Speak Safely Portal.

Reports of sexual offences can made to Victoria Police and the Safer Community Program can help you with this.

Complaints can also be made to the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

If you have experienced sexual misconduct, you have the right to seek support and advice. The University will support you through this process.

Speak Safely

The Speak Safely portal allows you to speak safely about sexual assault, harassment and other forms of inappropriate behaviour to access support, or seek action from your nominated response area.

You have the choice to remain anonymous. The University will take all reasonable steps to respect and protect your anonymity.

Speak Safely is an important tool to help the University provide a safer community for all.

Diary notes

You can also keep diary notes on any incidents of concern within the portal, in cases where you don’t wish to talk to someone straight away.

Group report

Other people may have experienced inappropriate behaviour as well. In order to match your report with other similar reports, you can turn on the scanning function which will look for similar matches using key information. You may prefer to hold your diary note back to be submitted only when Speak Safely’s scanning function matches it with other diary notes that are similar. Once your report has been matched to similar reports, you can choose to submit it as a group report or individually.

Note that no information will be shared between any individuals that identify others making reports.

Access Speak Safely now

Supporting you through our Safer Community Program

The Safer Community Program provides support and advice to members of the University of Melbourne community about inappropriate, concerning or threatening behaviour.

We can help you navigate the University's reporting and complaint processes, and will support you in your decision making and respect your choices.

Contact the Safer Community Program

Call us:
Phone: +61 3 9035 8675

Email us:

Visit us in person:
Stop 1
757 Swanston Street
Victoria 3052

Discover more about our Safer Community Program

Take action

How do I make a complaint?

You are encouraged to report any form of sexual misconduct that you may have experienced, seen or heard about. This could mean making a complaint to the University.

Complaints handled by the University

The University is able to consider complaints as they relate to the behaviours set out in the Vice-Chancellor Regulation (Part 6 Student Conduct) and according to the processes established by the University’s Student Conduct Policy, Appropriate Workplace Behaviour Policy and Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Policy.

The University may be able to take action when the alleged sexual misconduct occurred while:

  • On University premises;
  • Using University facilities and services; or
  • Engaging in University activities.

While some of the reported sexual misconduct may also be a criminal offence, the University cannot investigate criminal matters. However, it can consider the behaviour in relation to the University’s expectations detailed in the documents above.

Criminal matters can be reported to Victoria Police.

If you want to make a complaint to the University about an experience of sexual misconduct, there are a number of pathways.

The Safer Community Program is available to help you navigate them.

Take action and make a report about the behaviour of a student

Where can I make a complaint about the behaviour of a student?

  • Anyone can report the inappropriate behaviour of a student through this online form
  • Or register your concern with the Academic Registrar via email: 
  • If you are a student, you can make a complaint through the student complaints and grievances website
  • The Speak Safely portal helps staff and students speak safely about sexual assault, harassment and other forms of inappropriate behaviour to access support, take notes, or seek action from the University. If you wish, you can report anonymously. If you are not ready to make a formal complaint, you can keep a record of incidents via the Diary Note pathway.

Take action and make a report about the behaviour of a staff member

Where can I make a complaint about the behaviour of a staff member?

  • Current employees may contact their line manager or senior staff in their division, their local HR Business Partner, or Workplace Relations
  • Staff can also make an online complaint via Staff Hub
  • Call the Inappropriate Workplace Behaviour line on 1800 MULine (1800 685 463)
  • The Speak Safely portal helps staff and students speak safely about sexual assault, harassment and other forms of inappropriate behaviour to access support, take notes, or seek action from the University. If you wish, you can report anonymously. If you are not ready to make a formal complaint, you can keep a record of incidents via the Diary Note pathway.

Frequently asked questions

  • What happens when an incident happens outside the University’s jurisdiction?

    Sexual misconduct often constitutes criminal activity.

    The University supports the right of current and former students, staff and affiliates who have experienced sexual misconduct to decide whether or not they want to report the incident to Victoria Police, and/or equal opportunity, employment, and health and safety authorities.

    We may also support you with measures to address any immediate health and safety concerns you might have.

    For incidents outside our jurisdiction, we will support the individual to report to Victoria Police or another relevant authority and will provide access to internal and external support services.

  • How long will an investigation take?

    The investigation process can take a matter of days or, in some cases, months. The nature and duration of an investigation depends on the details of the complaint, whether the investigator or Student Disciplinary Committee has enough information to consider the allegations, and whether further investigation will be required.

    The length of an investigation will vary depending on a range of factors, including whether there are witnesses to be interviewed, the extent and nature of the case materials and the availability of the complainant and respondent to be interviewed.

  • How long do I have to make a complaint after an incident has occurred?

    A complaint can be made at any time. You can make a complaint about a recent incident or an incident that occurred at any time in the past. There is no time limit.

  • If I make a complaint, how will I be treated?

    We will provide support, listen to your concerns and respect your choices. If you choose to make a complaint, we will respond in a way that is fair to everyone.

    We respect your confidentiality throughout the process and will keep you informed of the progress of your complaint. You will receive details about the outcome of the process. The University is committed to prioritising the safety and wellbeing of victim-survivors by supporting, listening to and validating their experiences.

  • Can I withdraw my complaint if I don’t want to proceed with it?

    If you choose to withdraw your complaint, we will work with you to understand your concerns and reasons for requesting a withdrawal. We will work to find a suitable solution for all parties that also supports our duty of care to create a safe learning and working environment for the entire University community.

  • As a victim-survivor, how will I be assisted to continue to study and/or work?

    While the details of each situation are unique and the actions taken will vary accordingly, the University will work with victim/survivors to implement measures which address any future health or safety concerns.

  • If a complaint is made about me, what can I expect?

    Every case is unique, and the circumstances will determine the course of action.

    Where an investigation (either internal or external) is conducted, it will be impartial and grounded in principles of procedural fairness. The investigator will make findings of fact based on the available evidence and a balance of probabilities.

    You and the complainant will have opportunities to provide the investigator with written and verbal submissions and to nominate witnesses who may assist the investigation.

    You and the complainant will be kept informed of the progress of the investigation and provided with the outcome in a timely manner.

    You are also encouraged to access University support services through this time.

  • Will making a report of sexual misconduct affect my student visa?

    No, speaking about an incident of sexual misconduct will not affect your visa.

Penalties may apply

Findings of sexual misconduct may result in a range of penalties.

Findings against students

Findings of sexual misconduct may result in a range of penalties, including suspension or expulsion from the University.

Where an allegation of student sexual misconduct has been upheld through disciplinary proceedings, one or more penalties will be imposed in accordance with Part 6 — Student Conduct in the Vice-Chancellor Regulation, including but not limited to:

  • Reprimand and/or caution
  • Suspension: the suspension of a student’s enrolment at the University for a specified period
  • Termination: the termination or cancellation of a student’s enrolment at the University
  • Expulsion: the termination of a student’s enrolment and expulsion from the University
  • Exclusion: the denial of access to all or specified university premises, facilities, services and activities including work integrated learning, subjects, lectures and tutorials.

Findings against staff

Findings of sexual misconduct that fall within the University’s jurisdiction will be treated as ‘misconduct’ or ‘serious misconduct’.

Following a complaint about a staff member, a number of processes are possible including:

  • No action
  • Mediation
  • Informal management
  • Workplace inquiry
  • Investigation.

Outcomes will be proportional to the nature and impact of the proven misconduct, and the wishes of the complainant. Sexual misconduct is a serious matter and as such:

  • Current employees could face dismissal or other action on employment as determined by law
  • For former staff this may result in limiting their ability to be hired again
  • Honorary staff members could face rescission of honorary appointment

When an outcome has been determined, the complainant will be provided with a summary of the findings and the outcome of any investigation.

Get support

University support services

There are a range of support services that may be helpful if you have experienced sexual misconduct.


MySafety is an interactive website for University of Melbourne students who are worried about a relationship or a sexual experience, or who are concerned about a friend. It can help you to reflect on things that have happened, make decisions about what to do next, and find out what help is available.

Counselling and Psychological Services

Access free, confidential, short-term counselling, as well workshops, mental health training, and helpful resources.

Health Service

Access experienced medical doctors and nurses with a depth of knowledge relevant to student medical issues.

More support for you in the community

There are many local and national services available to support victim/survivors of sexual misconduct.

CASA House (Centre Against Sexual Assault)

CASA House services are free and confidential for victim/survivors of sexual assault, people of all genders, family members, friends and other people who are supporting victim-survivors. You can self-refer yourself to CASA House.

Sexual Assault Crisis Line

The Sexual Assault Crisis Line Victoria (SACL) is a state-wide, after-hours, confidential, telephone crisis counselling service for people who have experienced both past and recent sexual assault.