Raising awareness about sexual assault
WHITSUNDAY taxis and marked police cars will sport teal ribbons throughout the month of October, in recognition of Sexual Violence Awareness Month (SVAM).
SVAM is an annual campaign aimed at educating and encouraging community and individual awareness of the issues of sexual violence.
Whitsunday Police acting sergeant Ian Nichols said sexual assault was sometimes a problem at drinking establishments such as those on the main street of Airlie Beach.
“But people often don’t report it to police due to the fact they don’t believe it’s serious enough,” he said.
However, Act Sgt Nichols encouraged the public to speak up.
“Any acts of sexual assault or sexual violence will not be tolerated by police or the community,” he said.
Leah Anderson, from Whitsun- day Crisis and Counselling Services (WCCS) said SVAM was particularly important in the Whitsundays where sexual violence was “so prevalent”.
“It’s something we see so much of,” she said
Mandy Coles, also from WCCS said while many cases in the area went unreported to police, statistics provided by Victims Assist showed the Whitsunday region as the second highest in Australia for reports of sexual assault in 2010 – just behind the Gold Coast.
“And often the perpetrator is someone the victim knows and trusts,” she said.
Ms Coles said SVAM was about a community response and placing the responsibility on the offenders not the victims.
“And that’s the message we really need to get across to the community – to support the victim and not judge,” she said.
Teal ribbons are just one aspect of SVAM with a range of activities and initiatives planned for the month, including a two-hour ‘Supporting Hands: Introduction to Child Sexual Assault’ workshop on October 14. This free workshop will be held at the Whitsunday Christian College from 6-8pm and is open to all community members to attend.
For more information on SVAM or available support services, contact WCCS on 4946 2999 or the Whitsunday Police Station on 4948 8888.
COMMUNITY APPROACH: Whitsunday Police acting sergeant Ian Nichols, constable Syrrell Howard, Whitsunday Neighbourhood Centre community development officer Tamara Noble, Mackay/Whitsunday Taxis regional sales manager Mia Gudenswager and taxi owner Stuart Boys (back) with Mandy Coles and Leah Anderson from the Whitsunday Crisis and Counselling Service (front), are encouraging the community to get behind Sexual Violence Awareness Month.