Less likely to report sex assault
Tassie women ‘fearful’ of system
NEW analysis shows that Tasmanian women are far less likely than their mainland counterparts to report sexual assaults to police despite experiencing the crime at a similar rate.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows about 2100 women were sexually assaulted in Tasmania in 2016 but only 113 sexual assaults were reported to police in that period.
Further data shows about 37 Tasmanians per 100,000 reported sexual assaults to police in 2017 versus the weighted national average of 99.9. This was despite ABS figures showing women experienced the crime at a rate on par with those in other jurisdictions.
Sexual Assault Support Service chief executive Jill Maxwell said her Hobart service had recorded a huge increase in clients in recent years.
“Over the last couple of years we’ve averaged almost 1000 clients accessing our service, and that’s just the South,” Ms Maxwell said. “I know that there’s well under 100 people who actually report to police.”
Women’s Legal Service chief executive Susan Fahey said many people were scared to report their sexual assault because of the potential response — including unsolicited media attention.
“Most of the women that I’ve ever talked to who have experienced a sexual assault or a rape are fearful of what the criminal justice system treatment of them will be,” Ms Fahey said.
Tasmania Police Assistant Commissioner Richard Cowling said the force acknowledged it was a difficult decision for people to report a sexual assault but reassured victims that support would be provided.
The new figures come as ce- lebrities — including Hollywood actors Alyssa Milano and Spencer Breslin — join a campaign aimed at reforming Tasmanian laws that prevent survivors of sexual assault from sharing their story using their own name.
More than 1400 people had signed an online petition lobbying for law changes within about a day.
Prisoners Legal Service chairman Greg Barns accused the media of having no regards for the rights of convicted offenders who had perpetrated sexual assault.
“If individuals are allowed to tell the media their story and name the perpetrator this is a green light for more discrimination and harassment against persons who are entitled to privacy and peace after they have served their sentence,” Mr Barns said.
But End Rape on Campus Australia director Sharna Bremner said it was “inequitable” convicted sex offenders could talk to the media while their victims could not.
Attorney-General Elise Archer has signalled she will consider the relevant section of the state’s Evidence Act.