Written by Molly Lancett
Note: This is the third post in a series I am writing about inequality, the issues women/non-binary individuals face, and will act as an informative tool for people who may not be educated on the struggles we face. Starting with feminism and its importance, to the gender wage-gap (check out my previous posts to read), and will be ending with the following post, about sexual assault.
Trigger warning - Discussion of sexual assault and violence against women is described within this article. Mental health resources are listed below.
Sexual assault. One of the most terrifying crimes to occur to any individual. This issue has particularly been in the spotlight the past few years, with the #MeToo movement stemming within America, and reaching international levels, to within our very own Newcastle community in the form of protests and social media users posting their stories online, to raise both awareness and "name and shame" the perpetrators of these crimes. Unfortunately, it is well known that majority of sexual assault victims are women. The extent of this issue is extremely high, within 2019 alone there were 26,892 victims of sexual assault in Australia, an increase of 2% from the previous year. This was the eighth consecutive annual increase and the highest number for this offence recorded in a single year.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is a term easily used to describe a large range or crimes, that of a sexual nature against a person. These crimes include aggravated sexual assault, indecent assault and acts of indecency, such as unconsented touching of intimate areas, and of course rape.
Between the years of 2018-2019, it was found by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) that sexual offenders, as recorded by police, were mainly male, 97% to be exact. As well as this, males between the ages of 15-19 were more likely than any other age group to offend. It was also documented by the ABS that women were over four times as likely as men to have a recorded an incidence of sexual assault. Strikingly, in regard to reporting it was researched within 2002 by the National Crime and Safety Survey that 80% of women did not report the incident to police. Similarly, research by the Australian Component of the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS), found that only 15% of women who experienced intimate partner violence, either physically or sexually ended up reporting to the police. In 2007, a study conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) reported that less than 30% of sexual assaults are actually reported to the police. In another survey conducted by the IVAWS, it was found that Indigenous women have reported experiencing sexual violence in larger volumes than non-Indigenous women, with it being three times more likely. These shocking statistics show the prevalence of this issue, as the rates of sexual assault occurring against women are terrifyingly high.
It is interesting to note that many Australian's are still living in the past. In a survey conducted in 2017 by the National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS) it was found that:
• 1 in 5 were unaware that non-consensual sex in marriage is against the law.
• 1 in 8 believe that if a woman is raped while she is drunk or affected by drugs she is at least partly responsible.
• 1 in 10 believed that women were ‘probably lying’ about sexual assault if they did not report it straightaway.
• 2 in 5 agreed that ‘it was common for sexual assault accusations to be used as a way of getting back at men.’
• 1 in 3 believed that ‘rape resulted from men not being able to control their need for sex.’
• 1 in 8 agreed that a man is justified in having non-consensual sex if the woman initiated intimacy in a scenario where a couple had just met, and 1 in 7 agreed this was justified in a scenario where the couple were married and the woman initiated intimacies.
• 1 in 5 would not be bothered if a male friend told a sexist joke about women.
Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in our time, as shown in the above statistics. This is due to a large range of factors, such as a fear of lack of support, police officers not believing the victim and a fear of victim blaming from others. If any individual has been sexually assaulted and does not want to formally report to an officer/police station, there is another option. This option involves completing the sexual assault questionnaire. By doing this you are not making a formal complaint to police, but by completing this questionnaire, the information you have provided may be used to help police develop strategies which target offenders and reduce repeat offending. It may also be used to assist in other prosecutions against offenders. You can choose to provide your details or report anonymously.
- Sexual Assault Counselling Australia - Call 1800 211 028
- Newcastle Sexual Assault Service - Call (02) 4924 6333 for daytime hours - Call (02) 4924 6333/(02) 4921 3888 for afterhours
- Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of New South Wales - Call 02 9212 4777
- Beyond Blue - Call 1300 22 4636
- Lifeline - Call 13 11 14