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.

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