SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE: Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga, Rockhampton indigenous sexual assault counsellor and Women's Health Centre spokeswoman Charmaine Law and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer.
SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE: Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga, Rockhampton indigenous sexual assault counsellor and Women's Health Centre spokeswoman Charmaine Law and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer. Steph Allen

Giving a voice to sexual assault victims

RIGHT now, you know more than one person who has been a victim of sexual assault.

Statistics reveal one in five women older than 15 and one in six younger than 15 has experienced sexual assault, as well as one in 20 men.

Women with an intellectual disability have a 90per cent chance of being assaulted.

Despite these high numbers, 70per cent of victims will never speak out.

The statistics, the stigma, the conditioning of young people and the barriers that prevent 70per cent of victims speaking out are alarming.

Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer was in Rockhampton on Thursday for a Sexual Violence Prevention Roundtable designed to start conversations surrounding sexual violence and assault and help victims "put their lives back together again”.

"These are figures which are confronting,” Ms Farmer said.

"We want to hear from people where there are gaps. What are their needs and demands, what we need to do to prevent this and what we need to do to support victims of sexual assault.

"This is the fourth forum held across the state. We are also asking people to submit to our consultation via an online survey.

"We have a consultant especially for people with an intellectual disability, who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, men and women, and we have a special youth email for people from 13-25 years of age.

"We're hoping to hear from as many people as possible because the more we hear from, the more affective it will be.”

Despite Ms Farmer saying there are no breakdown of figures for each region, Queensland Crime Statistics at My Police Rockhampton showed 13 reported cases of sexual assault within this year.

In Rockhampton, police received 621 reports of sexual assault from 2010-19.

"The government already has a number of services, programs and policies in place,” Ms Farmer said.

"We support 26 sexual violence services right across the state and have Respectful Relationship programs in schools.

"We're responding to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

"There are a number of programs operating across nearly every single government department.”

Ms Farmer said after just a couple of weeks of the statewide forum, a lot had already been learned about early intervention.

"It's about talking to kids so they know what are respectful relationships,” she said.

"One of the important things is bringing (abuse) out of the shadows.

"People need to know what happened to them is not OK and there is support available to them.”

Ms Farmer said participants had voiced questions about what local services are available to them, as well as skilled staff in remote areas and high staff turnover.

Another topic in the forums was the influence childhood had on future attitudes towards sexual assault.

"Kids as young as five or six are accessing porn. Kids in primary school can access the dark web in 10 clicks,” MsFarmer said.

"They're being exposed to these type of relationships they are now considering normal, which are not relationships any of us would consider normal.

"This absolutely has an effect on the way young people are growing up. We need to be addressing that and need to be starting at schools, teaching them what respectful relationships are and how to keep themselves safe.”

Ms Farmer said the kinds of imagery and stories people were being exposed to influenced their thinking.

"One-third of Australians believe if a woman is kissing a man, he has permission to go further even if she doesn't give him that permission,” she said.

"We know that one-third of Australians believe men only rape women because they can't control their sexual urges.

"These are the sorts of attitudes we need to challenge and they're based on a fundamental issue of respect.

"The Me Too movement has been extremely useful in really bringing that debate right out there so people are talking about it. We need to get people talking about it more.”

Ms Farmer said many people choose not to speak out because of shame, fear and guilt.

"They feel like it's their fault. A young woman might be sexually assaulted and you hear a discussion about what was she wearing, was she drunk, was she leading him on? There's too much of that talk.

"If it's happened to you in a peer group, you're putting yourself against your peers and what they think of you. Do you know if it will be taken up? Is there enough evidence? Will you be going through all that trauma for nothing?

"They're really big inhibitors to people actually putting their hand up.”

Roundtable member Women's Health Centre indigenous sexual assault counsellor Charmaine Law said during her time at the Rockhampton centre she had seen the number of sexual assaults increase.

"We also know there's a lot that are not reported,” she said.

"There are survivors wanting to actually break the silence and report, but also many choosing not to go down that avenue because it's such a traumatic experience for them.

"We are the specialists in sexual violence support service, we have quite a number of predominately women but also men and young people that come in to access that counselling to get support.

"We need more of these conversations and the services also need more community support.”

Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga said she wanted to talk with stakeholders in the community, service providers, victims and perpetrators about how to best combat the issue.

"Sexual violence is not acceptable,” she said. "There are lifelong impacts victims suffer as a result of sexual violence.”

Start the conversation

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, you can share your experience and reach out at getinvolved.qld.gov.au

An online survey, a background paper, a Youth Engagement Hub for people aged 13-25 and community forums are available.



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