By Family Violence Command Assistant Commissioner Dean McWhirter
‘Amy’, her mother, and the many survivors of sexual offences who have come forward over the last two days have been incredibly brave in telling their stories.
Research supports what police already know – that rape, sexual assault and child abuse are significantly underreported, under prosecuted and under convicted.
And we also know the majority of survivors of rape and sexual assault delay disclosing or reporting or never disclose or report their experience.
There are many reasons for that, such as feeling confusion, guilt or shock about the assault, fear of the perpetrator, the consequences of reporting, or feeling that they won’t be believed.
And of course one of the other reasons is exactly what many survivors have stated in the media over the last two days – the criminal justice system can be difficult and stressful.
I want to take this opportunity to let survivors of sexual offences know that we as police want you to receive the support you deserve – whether that be from us or from support services.
I also want to reassure you that from Victoria Police’s perspective, you are always in control of what happens next.
Victoria Police has around 400 detectives who are specially trained in investigating sexual offences and child abuse.
I can confidently say these detectives are extremely passionate about what they do and are always focused on what is best for victims.
If you engage with detectives in our Sexual Offence and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCITs), this is what you can expect:
- They will consider your immediate medical needs and take steps to ensure you are safe.
- Staff from a Centre Against Sexual Assault will be available to you for counselling and advocacy support.
- The detectives will have a discussion with you about your options. They will let you know that telling police your story does not automatically mean an investigation or going to court.
- You will be in control of the process from start to finish and that if at any time you feel uncomfortable you can withdraw.
- One police member will be your primary point of contact from start to finish and the choice of investigator (male or female) is yours.
Our role is to help you and we recognise that for some survivors a formal outcome at court is not the measurement of success.
In a number of cases survivors have told us that simply sitting down with police and being able to tell their whole story and being believed is helpful.
Even if you do not want to proceed with an investigation there are important reasons for reporting a sexual offence, as the information you provide us may help us enhance your safety or the safety of others.
If you have been sexually offended against and you are looking for counselling support you can contact:
- Centres Against Sexual Assault, telephone 1800 806 292 (after hours service available)
- National Sexual Assault and Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service, telephone 1800 RESPECT (737 732).
Reviewed 11 March 2019