Tourist raped on Byron beach
By MEGAN KINNINMENT
A 19-YEAR-OLD English tourist was raped at Clarks Beach, Byron Bay, yesterday, sparking safety fears for travellers to the popular tourist town.
The backpacker and her boyfriend had arrived in Byron Bay two weeks ago and had spent several nights sleeping on Clarks Beach.
Early yesterday morning, the woman's boyfriend had walked off to the toilet when she was approached by the rapist and attacked.
Police were alerted through a triple-0 call and arrived at the scene soon after 6am.
The woman was taken to Byron District Hospital, where she was treated for shock and trauma.
A crime scene was established on the beach, in front of the Beach Cafe, where two separate piles of belongings, including clothes, a backpack and blankets, were collected for forensic examination.
Detectives were continuing their investigation yesterday and, as of last night, no charges had been laid.
Police stressed the rape was not connected to the death of German backpacker Simone Strobel in Lismore last month.
However, police warned yesterday's attack was not an isolated event, saying there was an urgent need to protect and educate female visitors.
Inspector Ian Fitzsimmons said a meeting would be arranged between the police and medical professionals to work out ways to reduce the number of sexual assaults in the area.
He said warning advertisements on the back of ladies' toilet doors, and warning videos played in coaches as visitors arrived in town, were possible preventative strategies to put in place.
"There will be a meeting with various agencies, including hospital staff, sexual assault counsellors and medical staff, to come up with a strategy," Insp Fitzsimmons said.
"Medical officers have approached us.
"There are attacks taking place, although we don't know how often because they are not always reported.
"A lot of them involve alcohol or drug use, and these offenders are often opportunistic.
"It's not a major problem, not an epidemic, but these offences are occurring."
Insp Fitzsimmons said any education measures would have to be ongoing because of the town's transient population.
"As soon as one lot moves out of town, another lot arrives. There needs to be constant reminders," he said.
The secretary of Byron Bay's peak backpacker operators' group yesterday voiced support for the plan to warn visitors.
"Signage is a good idea," said James Robinson-Gale, manager of Main Beach Backpackers and secretary of the Byron Bay Backpackers' Association.
"We don't have a formal policy on posting warnings to visitors to be careful for their personal safety, although we do have notices warning them to look out for their possessions on the beach," Mr Robinson-Gale said.
"In light of this assault, and the assault on (German backpacker) Simone Strobel, it may be a good idea to warn our visitors of being careful of personal safety.
"I do hear people say they don't like going out in town on a Saturday night because of the yobbo element, but I don't think Byron Bay generally has a bad reputa- tion for assaults."
Assistant manager at Main Beach Backpackers, Anthony Ruge, said he often warned young female travellers of the dangers of being out alone at night.
"If someone says, for example, they are walking up to the lighthouse in the afternoon and asks if it would be safe to walk back at night, I will tell them no," he said. "People have this perception that Byron Bay is this hippy little town and they don't think it's unsafe."