Aria Kirwan shared her story about being part of a ‘sex tour’ during her first week of university. Australia's college hazing horror
Aria Kirwan shared her story about being part of a ‘sex tour’ during her first week of university. Australia's college hazing horror

What really goes on at Australian university campuses

WHAT goes on behind closed doors at one of Adelaide's most respected residential colleges is no longer a closely-guarded secret.

Women who have been subjected to sexual assault, forced to watch lewd sex acts and encouraged to keep quiet about the toxic culture at St Mark's College in Adelaide are doing just the opposite.

They're telling their stories so others don't have to experience what they did. Aria Kirwan is one of them.

When she was 18, Ms Kirwan attended Orientation Week at the college attached to Adelaide University. Orientation included a "sex tour". She told 60 Minutes that she was forced to undress for older male students.

"Some of us girls were saying, 'No, we don't want to do that' and I felt so intimidated because they were older, bigger, they'd been drinking.

"I'm a 5' 2" 18-year-old, you know. What am I going to be able to say to them that is going to make them stop? So I just thought, 'I just need to do it'."

Another student, Elizabeth, told the program the "sex tour" included "literally couples having sex".

 

 

"There were girls on the table. I think there were three girls right in the middle of the library with their tops off. And porn on the big screen, and this was hardcore porn. And it had boys with their hands down their pants looking like they were masturbating.

"I had never seen someone masturbate, so that in itself was just another thing on top of everything else."

When Aria told her story, she wasn't rewarded for her bravery. Instead she was ridiculed and accused of making the whole thing up.

"It seems to me she just wasn't willing to participate," one person wrote on Facebook.

"Her story is exactly that - a story," another wrote.

For the most part, St Mark's has denied it has a cultural problem. But a letter to Aria shows the chairman at the college, Richard Burchnall, is at least taking steps in the right direction.

Dear Aria,

I am writing to let you know the College has now completed its investigations into the allegations you made about your experiences at the College. We have been at pains to gather all available information before making known our findings.

Where your allegations have been substantiated, remedial action has been made.

That "action" includes sending one student who "showed inappropriate material on a TV screen" to a three-hour workshop on gender equity, sexual harassment and what it means to be an ethical bystander.

The college has also referred part of Aria's complaint to South Australia Police.

St Mark's College.
St Mark's College.

But her story is not the only one threatening to damage the reputation of a college whose alumni include lawyers, doctors and politicians.

Another student, Jenny, said she was taken advantage of while drunk. She said she was "stripped down to my bra and underpants" while a "group of men crowded around me and (touched) me on different parts of my body".

"One of them was propping me up under my arms and another was pretending to sniff my hair," she told 60 Minutes. Another man had his hands on my breasts."

She found out about the incident when she saw photos the men had taken of her.

In 2013, St Mark's College issued an "O-Week" magazine to potential first-year students and warned them: "Do not show anyone outside of college this ... anyone caught breaking these rules will be in more shit than you could ever imagine."

The magazine included the following disturbing poem: "While you live bleeding in pain, you find yourself shouting and screaming his name."

College master Rose Alwyn told ABC Radio the 2013 magazine was "abhorrent", "deplorable" and "against the values of the college and everything the college has worked so hard for in its 93-year history".

She said a cultural problem existed in 2013 but had been rectified. A 2015 magazine that recently surfaced suggests the problem never went away.

"He'll f**k you so hard, you'll be left with amnesia," the 2015 O-Week magazine told potential students.

 

 

St Mark's College issued a statement on Sunday night following "very serious allegations of sexual assaults ... made by unidentified former students".

"The College is shocked and appalled by the allegations and strongly urges the former students to immediately report their allegations to South Australian police," Mr Burchnall said.

"The College will make its own report of the allegations to South Australian police.

"Sexual harassment of any kind is unacceptable, whether at St Mark's College or anywhere else in society.

"Every student entering the College is given alcohol and drug education and sexual harassment, sexual assault, ethical bystander and consent training.

"St Mark's is committed to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of residents, visitors and staff; adopts a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour; and will continue to develop and encourage a culture that supports reporting."