Fight to reduce city sex attacks
$ 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.