Warning: This article contains information about sexual assault and suicide which may be distressing for some readers.
When Gabbie Lynch was accepted into one of the country’s most “prestigious” institutions, Sydney University, to study a Bachelor of Arts, she was excited for the start of her university experience.
She was also thrilled to be living at St John’s College during her studies, believing the on-campus building was “beautiful” and the college had “such a sense of history”.
“But I had no idea about the reputation of the USyd colleges… I was quite naive about all of it and what to expect,” she said.
Watch Gabbie Lynch speak to ABC’s 7.30 in the video below.
It wasn’t until orientation week she realised what she had walked into: she was immediately given a humiliating “fresher” nickname, and was forced to sit cross-legged on the filthy ground of the college bar for hours on end.
If she or any of her fellow newcomers were caught talking, they would be “yelled at and forced to skol alcohol”.
Gabrielle’s story comes as part of a damning new 200-page report, called The Red Zone Report, released today by organisation End Rape On Campus Australia and seen by Mamamia. The report draws its title from orientation week, the time in which first-year students are the most vulnerable to sexual assault, hazing and excessive alcohol consumption, most often at the hands of older students.
The report, authored by Nina Funnell, details the shocking history of sexual violence and hazing at some of the country’s most prestigious residential colleges, like the one Gabbie lived at between 2016 and 2017.
Detailing her experiences in the report, Gabbie said that a few days into O-Week, she woke to find three strange men in her room after a night of drinking.
LISTEN: Vanessa Grigoriadis speaks to Mia Freedman about ‘mattress girl’ and consent on uni campuses. Post continues after audio…
“It was terrifying. I felt so unsafe in my own room, it was a real intrusion,” she said.
But when she complained about the intrusion, she said she was told she should instead be “grateful” to be given one of the college’s better rooms.
The hazing rituals continued throughout Gabbie’s first year at the college, and during the final “initiation ritual”, male and female freshers were locked in uni-sex bathrooms while older college students threw buckets of dead, rotting fish over them.
Gabbie said she was also forced to take part in rituals including a drinking game where female freshers were asked to reveal “gossip” about their fellow female students, a “girls night in” where women were made to dress in horse riding gear and watch a male stripper perform and ‘The Purge’, a once-a-year event which sees college residents sharing embarrassing photos and stories of others’ sexual activity via a closed Facebook group. St John’s College told ABC it took all allegations of student misconduct seriously and would investigate the claims.