Police at the scene of the sexual assault of an English tourist at Clarks Beach.
Police at the scene of the sexual assault of an English tourist at Clarks Beach.

Rape a pattern of sex attacks

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

THE RAPE of a 19-year-old English tourist at Clarks Beach was typical of a disturbing pattern of sexual assaults in public places in Byron Bay, health experts have warned.

And, while that rape was reported and is being investigated by police, the majority of assaults are going unreported.

Every year 97 sexual assaults are reported in the Northern Rivers, according to police from the Richmond and Tweed-Byron Local Area Command.

However, the Richmond Sexual Assault Service believes the figure could be 10 times higher with unreported cases being treated by health workers.

Overall, NSW crime statistics show that two-thirds of assaults take place in homes where the offender is known to the victim.

However, in Byron Bay a disturbing trend has emerged where women are more at risk of being attacked in a public place by a stranger.

The alarming assault statistics were discussed at an interagency meeting covened by the Richmond Sexual Assault Service in Byron Bay this week.

The meeting was convened to look at ways to reduce the number of sexual assaults in the town.

In 2004, there were 45 sexual assaults in Tweed-Byron Local Area Command, 15 of these in Byron Bay, while in Richmond Local Area Command there were 52 reported sexual assaults.

However, according to Richmond Sexual Assault Service counsellor, Sharon Brodi, only 10 per cent of sexual assaults that take place were reported to police.

She said Richmond Police Command recorded about 300 new clients (Lismore and coastal shires) in 2004, making a total of 675 new and continuing clients seeking counselling for sexual assault.

"Those attending the meeting recognised the sense of urgency in putting effective strategies in place for improved safety in Byron Bay," Ms Brodie said.

"A number of strategies are now underway said organisers, and the process will be reviewed every month."

The strategies are to be coordinated by various government organisations, NGOs and local businesses, including Byron Shire Council, NSW Police, Richmond Sexual Assault Service, as well as back- packer and rental accommodation facilities, hotels and clubs.

The interagency meeting, organised before the rape of the 19-year-old English backpacker at Clarks Beach one week ago, involved police, sexual assault counsellors, Byron District Hospital, Byron Youth Service, INTRA Drug and Alcohol Outreach Service, Women's Resource Services, Byron Shire high schools and representatives of the Strategy to Reduce Violence Against Women.



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