The Victorian government is under pressure to consult on ways of providing an online sexual assault reporting service for victims, following the passage of a motion in that state’s parliament this week.
A motion moved by Stuart Grimley, a member of the Victorian Legislative Council representing Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, called for the state government to implement a sexual assault online reporting option and for a consultation process to develop a best practice model.
Grimley’s motion requires the government to table a report of findings arising from the consultation in the Legislative Council chamber by September 1.
“I expect the government may say to the house today that there could not be enough time or there may not be enough time to conduct the consultation, especially in the time frame specified in the motion,” Grimley said.
“However, precedent has been set through other Engage Victoria processes that would allow this timeline to be absolutely met. The property market review went for under two months. The review of Victoria’s approach to illicit tobacco regulation was open for 3½ months.”
Debate on the motion mentioned recent findings of a Victorian Law Reform Commission report titled ‘Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences’ that about 87% of people who experience sexual violence do not report it, and that an online reporting service would assist to boost the number of cases that are brought to the attention of authorities.
Professor Georgina Heydon from the faculty of Criminology and Justice Studies at RMIT University said the consultation process needs to be driven by research and be based on the experiences of survivors of sexual assault.
“Research has long identified the persistent under-reporting of sexual assault to police and the criminal justice system, with the most recent statistics suggesting only 13% of sexual assaults are ever reported,” Heydon said.
“This figure is likely much lower for certain communities who face significant barriers to reporting their experiences, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, LGBTQIA+ people, and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.”
Heydon said there are victim-survivors who do not trust law enforcement agencies and feel less than confident that police will handle their cases with sensitivity.
She said there are still myths about sexual assault and victim blaming and that some victims feel the experience was not significant or serious enough to report.
“Due to these issues which lead to vast under-reporting, only a tiny fraction of sexual assault offenders are ever prosecuted and convicted,” Heydon said.
“This commitment by the Victorian Government aims to both improve the reporting process in the hope that it leads to more convictions, and importantly improves access to support for survivors, about half of whom never seek support either.”