Shame and fear silence Northern Rivers rape victims
SHAME and fear silence some Northern Rivers residents who are struggling to report rape and sexual violence because of fear of further violence, experts say.
Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research crime data reveals there were 1475 rapes and sexual assaults in our region in the five years from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2016.
Domestic violence professionals fear the number of victims could be much higher with a 2018 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report showing 20 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men have experienced sexual violence.
Tamahra Manson from the Northern NSW Local Health District said there was a massive gap between actual incidence of sexual violence and official crime figures.
"Women are more likely to report sexual violence by a former partner than a current partner to the police," Ms Manson said.
"The most common reasons for non-reporting of sexual violence cited are that women want to deal with it themselves, they don't believe it is serious enough and the overwhelming fear, shame and embarrassment that they feel."
"Women do not need to report an assault to police to access a sexual assault service, but police can support women in making a decision around whether to take legal action."
Women's Legal Service NSW executive officer Helen Campbell said many women were coerced into sex, often acquiescing to "preserve their own safety".
Ms Campbell said reporting sexual violence could lead to children being removed from their mother's care, survivors could suffer more violence if they speak to police about it and they often had nowhere to go if they did leave.
"Exiting a violent relationship is often exiting into homelessness because there are not enough shelters," she said.
NSW Police conceded sexual violence was under-reported with a spokesperson saying "We are attempting to change the attitude of the community".
"The police will take the report seriously and put in place measures to protect the victim," the spokesperson said.
"In summary, we care and want victims to report incidents to police and we will work with the victim to achieve a safe and effective outcome."
For more information visit www.wlsnsw.org.au
When you have no choice but to conceive
REPRODUCTIVE coercion is a major issue for women who access Children by Choice.
The not-for-profit's data reveals 13.5 per cent - 1350 out of 10,000 - contacts with the centre since 2015 involve women who have been forced to have a child, been stopped from conceiving or prevented from carrying a child to full term.
There are no laws in Australia that specifically address reproductive coercion.
Abusers control their partner's procreation through many methods including stopping them from using common contraceptives; rape; sabotaging condoms or removing them during sex; and preventing women from accessing the morning after pill or abortions.
"Reproductive coercion is when perpetrators attempt to establish and maintain control in a relationship by removing her access to choices about having children," Children by Choice Screening to Safety project officer Liz Price said.
"Sexual violence or coerced sex can be used as a tool in this."
Ms Price said a woman who was forced to carry a child to full term was then burdened with an ongoing relationship with the father for the rest of her life.
She said Children by Choice would like to see reproductive coercion added to the state's criminal code.
"The enduring nature of control stemming from a forced pregnancy is so far-reaching that it warrants particular attention," she said.
Children by Choice provides information on unplanned pregnancy options including abortion, adoption and parenting for women in Queensland and Northern NSW. - NewsRegional
WHAT IS SEXUAL VIOLENCE?
- Sexual violence is being forced, pressured or tricked into doing sexual things when you don't want to.
- No one has the right to make you do sexual things, even if you are in a relationship with them.
- There is no right or wrong way for someone to react to an experience of sexual violence.
- Sexual violence includes someone having sex or doing sexual things to you without your informed consent.
- Even for people in a relationship or married to someone, both people need to consent to having any sex together.
- For 24-hour support in Queensland phone DVConnect on 1800 811 811, MensLine on 1800 600 636 or the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.