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Alternative reporting options for victims of sexual assault

10 September, 2009

The international literature on recidivism shows that the sexual recidivism rates of sexual offenders (including child sex offenders) is lower than the rate of recidivism for the general prison population. Sexual recidivism rates vary from as low as 2% up to 35%. This goes against the commonly held view that sex offenders have a high rate of recidivism. The fact that sex offenders have a low rate of sexual recidivism provides an argument for the importance of reporting sexual offences to reduce the rate of recidivism. It also highlights the need to shine a light on the ‘dark figure’ of crime, that is, unreported or unrecorded sexual offences. It may be these sexual offenders that are able to perpetrate harm in society unchecked and with a degree of increasing confidence.

While the actual number of sexual offences or assaults is unknown, ABS victim self-report data shows that there were 143 900 incidences (100%). Of that number 18.9% were reported to police and 12.6% recorded by police with only 0.9% found to be guilty of a sexual offence. Easy to allege but hard to refute, my arse.

There are many barriers to reporting and the police are one of them. The Queensland Police Service has introduced (not sure when and can’t find out much information on the scheme at all) Alternative Reporting Options (ARO), previously Project USA – Unreported Sexual Assault. This could be a useful tool for victims of sexual assault. In situations where the victim is unable or does not want to report the offence or the offender, the victim may feel that they have a voice and receive some comfort from ‘telling someone’ about the offence.

Even if a victim does not wish to report at this level ARO could still be of use. The Sexual Crime Survey could be filled in so if a victim later decides to officially report the offence the details will have already been recorded and be aware of support services available.

This program should have more publicity. It should also supply the victim with more realistic information about the court process to assist in minimising secondary victimisation and the consequences of reporting.

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