AHN Sexual Harassment and Abuse Prevention Policy

AHN Sexual Harassment and Abuse Prevention Policy

Note: This policy is subject to change at any time. Please check all AHN Policies on a regular basis for updates

The Australian Homestay Network (“AHN”) prohibits sexual harassment or abuse of any Guest under the care or supervision of AHN or its Hosts. This policy should be used in conjunction with the AHN Critical Incident Policy. Any violation of this policy will result in termination of the offending individual’s relationship with the organisation, and criminal prosecution may ensue.

Identifying Sexual Harassment

Examples of prohibited behaviour that could be defined as sexual harassment include:

  • unwelcome sexual advances;
  • requests for sexual favours;
  • obscene gestures;
  • displaying sexually graphic magazines, calendars or posters;
  • sending sexually explicit emails or text messages;
  • other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as uninvited touching of a sexual nature or sexually related comments;
  • sexual joking, vulgar or offensive conversation or jokes;
  • commenting about an AHN community member’s physical appearance;
  • conversation about your own or someone else's sex life; and
  • teasing or other conduct directed toward a person because of his or her gender which is perceived to create an unprofessional and hostile environment.

Identifying Sexual Abuse

For the purposes of this policy, sexual abuse is defined as inappropriate sexual contact or interaction with a Guest, whether initiated or received, by any individual functioning as a caregiver, or otherwise exercising responsibility, for any aspect of the Guest’s care. Sexual abuse includes sexual assault, exploitation, molestation or injury. It does not include sexual harassment, which is addressed below.

Signs of Potential Sexual Abuse
There are a number of “red flags” that suggest someone is being sexually abused. They take the form of physical or behavioural evidence.

Physical evidence of sexual abuse includes, but is not limited to:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases;
  • Difficulty walking or moving normally;
  • Stained, bloody or torn undergarments;
  • Genital pain or itching; and
  • Physical injuries involving the external genitalia.

Behavioural signals suggestive of sexual abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Fear or reluctance about being left in the care of a particular person;
  • An aversion to being touched;
    Wearing excessive clothing, especially night clothes;
  • Discomfort or apprehension when sex is referred to or discussed; and
  • Nightmares or fear of night and/or darkness.

Mandatory Reporting Procedure

Any AHN employee, AHN contractor, host or host family member who suspects, witnesses or otherwise learns of any potential instance of sexual harassment or abuse must immediately report it to the appropriate party:

  • Host families must report to their local AHN office/regional Office Manager.
  • Local AHN office staff must report to their regional Office Manager. The Office Manager must report to the Guest’s education provider if the Guest is studying in Australia on a student visa. Education providers are legally responsible for their students’ welfare.
  • After investigating the incident, the Office Manager must report to the Guest’s education provider if the Guest is studying in Australia on a student visa. Education providers are legally responsible for their students’ welfare.

NOTE: If the alleged victim is a minor, the education provider must report to local law enforcement in their state or territory as required by law. Details are provided on the Australian Government Australian Institute of Family Studies website at https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/mandatory-reporting-child-abuse-and-neglect. Contact details for support organisations and local law enforcement should be offered to alleged victims aged 18 years or older.

You should contact any higher-level manager within AHN or send an email to info@homestaynetwork.org if:

  • you are unable for any reason to contact the appropriate individual listed above;
  • you have not received a satisfactory response within three (3) days after reporting any incident of what you perceive to be sexual harassment or abuse; or
  • the person toward whom the complaint is directed is one of the individuals indicated above.

Urgent matters shall be reported to local law enforcement and then reported directly to the CEO of AHN. These reporting procedures do not change or supersede an individual’s existing reporting requirements under state or federal law.

AHN will also take appropriate steps to report the alleged sexual harassment or abuse incident to its insurance company and make all further notifications deemed reasonably necessary to protect the alleged victim and AHN.

Investigation and Follow Up

We take all allegations of sexual harassment or abuse extremely seriously. Every report will be investigated as per the AHN Critical Incident Policy and corrective action will be taken where appropriate. All complaints will be kept confidential to the extent possible, but confidentiality cannot be guaranteed.

Once the allegation is reported, we will promptly, thoroughly and impartially conduct an investigation to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to believe that sexual harassment or abuse has been committed. Our investigation may be undertaken by either an internal team or we may hire an independent third party. We will cooperate fully with any investigation conducted by law enforcement or regulatory agencies and we may refer the complaint and the result of our investigation to those agencies.

If the alleged perpetrator is a member of the host family, the Guest will be immediately removed from the home and placed with another host family or alternate housing as required. AHN will take all reasonable measures to prevent the alleged perpetrator from engaging in verbal or physical contact with the Guest. We reserve the right to suspend stipend payments to the host family until the allegations have been resolved.

If the alleged perpetrator is an AHN staff member, we reserve the right to place the staff member on an involuntary leave of absence, or otherwise re-assign that person to responsibilities that do not involve personal contact with the alleged victim or other Guests, during the course of an investigation.

If the investigation substantiates the allegation, the perpetrator’s relationship with AHN will be terminated.

We will arrange medical attention and counselling services as required, monitor the need for counselling, and maintain contact with those who may need ongoing support.

To the fullest extent possible, but consistent with our need to complete a thorough investigation and our legal obligation to report suspected sexual harassment or abuse to appropriate authorities, we will endeavour to keep the identities of the alleged victims and investigation subject confidential.

Retaliation Prohibited

We prohibit any retaliation against anyone, including employees, contractors, family members, host family members, Guests or other individuals associated with AHN, who in good faith reports a potential violation of this policy or who participates in any related investigation.

Anyone who takes any action to retaliate against an individual who has made a good-faith report of a potential violation of this policy or who has participated in a related investigation will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of the individual’s relationship with the organisation

Intentionally false or malicious accusations of sexual harassment or abuse, or intentionally providing false information in a related investigation, is also prohibited and will subject the offending individual to discipline, up to and including termination of the individual’s relationship with the organisation.

Reviewed: March 2022