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Crucial to genuine transformation at higher education institutions is a commitment to eradicating sexual violence and creating safe, democratic spaces within which the institutions’ broader goals may be realised. Sexual assault is a serious concern at higher education institutions and requires a comprehensive approach to address it. The aim of this article is to elucidate students’ perspectives on the need for a separate sexual assault policy at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Gaining the perspectives of students serves as a catalyst for sexual assault policy formulation and institutional development. In this article we draw on data generated within a larger project that focuses on addressing gender violence at UKZN. We report on a study which is located at a selected UKZN campus, and utilised an online survey which was distributed via a hyperlink accessed through student emails. Analysis is based on the responses of 265 undergraduate students in the School of Education. The findings suggest that higher education students view a sexual assault policy as a fundamental institutional obligation that has the potential to educate the university community about how to identify, prevent, report on and deal with sexual assault. Students suggest that the existing policy on sexual harassment is inadequate as a form of protection, poorly enforced, and has weak reporting mechanisms. They stress an urgent need for development of a specific sexual assault policy at UKZN that is widely communicated and engaged with. The development of a sexual assault policy which has significance for victims and (potential) perpetrators can be informed by considering students’ reflections on the personal, social, cultural and institutional elements that increase their vulnerability to sexual offences.
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