Fight to re­duce city sex at­tacks

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - AN­DREW BACKHOUSE an­drew. back­house1@ news. com. au

$ TOWNSVILLE holds the shame­ful ti­tle of be­ing Queens­land’s sex­ual as­sault cap­i­tal but the chiefs of an in­ter- ser­vice sup­port unit are con­fi­dent they are mak­ing in­roads into the dire prob­lem.

Women’s Cen­tre Townsville co- or­di­na­tor Cathy Craw­ford said the city had the high­est rates in Queens­land of sex­ual as­sault per capita.

How­ever, she said the city’s Sex­ual As­sault Re­sponse Team, formed 12 months ago in re­sponse to the shock­ing statis­tics, was mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

The SART is com­prised of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the po­lice Sex­ual Crimes Unit, Townsville Hos­pi­tal, the Clin­i­cal Med­i­cal Foren­sic Unit and the Townsville Sex­ual As­sault Sup­port Ser­vice.

It pro­vides vic­tims with sup­port from po­lice, health pro­fes­sion­als and coun­sel­lors.

“Un­for­tu­nately we’re ref­er­enc­ing suc­cess on the fact that more peo­ple are re­port­ing ( crimes against them),” Ms Craw­ford said.

“But we know one thing about sex­ual as­sault in our com­mu­nity is that it’s very un­likely to be re­ported.

“One of those rea­sons is the sys­tem. You didn’t want to tell your story and not be be­lieved.

“We’re now get­ting more re­ports. We’ve had a 25 per cent in­crease in clin­i­cal foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tions.

“The Townsville Sex­ual As­sault Ser­vice has had well over a 40 per cent in­crease in sex­ual as­sault coun­selling and sup­port pro­vided.

“We’ve had more males pre­sent­ing. Still not a very large per­cent­age of men re­port sex­ual as­sault, but we have had an in­crease.”

Ms Craw­ford said, un­der the SART pro­gram, peo­ple who were sex­u­ally as­saulted would get a team re­sponse.

“( SART) will sup­port you all the way through to the end of that in­ves­ti­ga­tion or your needs,” she said.

The unit, formed last July, is the first of its kind in Queens­land and Townsville po­lice Sex­ual Crimes Unit de­tec­tive Se­nior Sergeant Phil Watts said he hoped it would be rolled out else­where.

“We saw a need for a ded­i­cated group of in­ves­ti­ga­tors with a set of skills to look at these of­fences and pro­vide the best pos­si­ble re­sponse,” he said.

He said po­lice had made sig­nif­i­cant in­roads into tack­ling sex­ual as­sault.

“From our per­spec­tive, by es­tab­lish­ing this part­ner­ship and work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion we’re get­ting a bet­ter idea of what’s hap­pen­ing,” he said.

Sen- Sgt Watts said dis­cus­sions were un­der way to ex­pand the pro­gram to the wider re­gion, in­clud­ing Palm Is­land.

He said the large ge­o­graph­i­cal area of the North Queens­land re­gion posed chal­lenges but he was con­fi­dent they would be over­come.

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