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‘Once in a decade opportunity’ for victim survivors of sexual assault

A Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) report, with the potential to reshape how courts, police and support services respond to victim survivors of sexual violence across Victoria has been described as a once-in-a-decade opportunity to reshape the experience of victim survivors and ensure that rapists and perpetrators of sexual violence are held to account.

The Improving the Response of the Justice System to Sexual Offences report is seen as an opportunity to drag the justice system into the #metoo era. It was released 12 November 2021.

Helen Bolton, CEO The Sexual Assault & Family Violence Centre (The SAFV Centre) has welcomed the report and its recommendations for comprehensive improvements across the process – from initial reporting and forensic examinations to investigations, trial and support services.

“Victim survivors deserve so much better. Every day, the people we work with tell us that the justice system adds to their trauma. If the government adopts the report in full, we’ll see victim survivors placed at the centre of the process – not disbelieved and ignored.”

“We commend the Victorian Government for their commitment to instilling change that will support those impacted by sexual violence and shift scrutiny and accountability in sexual assault matters onto those of the accused offender.”

“The introduction of legislative change on affirmative consent and stealthing, and an additional $5.2 million for boosting sexual assault services to help respond to increasing demand, highlights the government’s commitment to fix the broken system and focus on victims.”

“Sexual violence continues to be prevalent in our community. In 2021, there was a 9% increase in victim reports of sexual offences in Greater Geelong from 2020, and a 31% increase from June 2017*.”

“In the 2020-2021 financial year, The SAFV Centre provided therapeutic support to more than 1,600 adults, young people and children impacted by sexual assault. 17% of these clients were aged between 0-17 years.”

“We thank the resilient victim survivors who have publicly shared their trauma knowing it was time to boldly call for change. Their experiences have contributed to the VLRC review which prioritises many overdue key reforms, including:

  • Better access to forensic examinations
  • Online reporting of sexual assault
  • Improved court process
  • Training by specialist sexual assault services for police, lawyers, magistrates, judges and child protection
  • Better prevention, early intervention and community re-integration
  • Access to flexible support packages
  • Supporting and expanding Multidisciplinary Centres (MDCs)

“Every victim survivor of sexual violence deserves to be heard, supported and justice served. We believe these reforms will help pave the way for a better outcome for those living with the trauma of sexual violence.”

The VLRC report is here: Improving the Response of the Justice System to Sexual Offences – Victorian Law Reform Commission

*Crime Statistics (2021) ‘LGA Victim Reports Year Ending June 2021’ Download data | Crime Statistics Agency Victoria

The Sexual Assault & Family Violence Centre acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of the land we stand on. We are committed to working toward creating a community where all people indigenous and non-indigenous are safe, connected and empowered to live well. The Sexual Assault & Family Violence Centre recognises the diverse needs of our community and we ensure our services are inclusive of all children, young people and their families including those who are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds, those who identify as LGBTIQ and persons living with disability. We work collaboratively with people and partner organisations who also support our diverse client group. Interpreter and translator services are available to all our clients upon request.

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