Shame and fear silence Gladstone rape victims
GLADSTONE residents struggle to report rape and sexual violence because they worry they will not be believed, experts fear.
Queensland Police data reveals there were 1924 rapes and sexual assaults reported in the Capricornia area in the five years from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2017, exclusive NewsRegional research reveals.
Domestic violence professionals believe 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.
"What is commonly heard (from survivors) is 'I'm scared I won't be believed'," Nicolle Baker, from Gladstone Women's Health Centre, said.
"I think further education around acceptable behaviour would be helpful, though programs such as these for adults can be hard to fill."
Ms Baker said working with young people could hold the key to reducing violence and helping survivors gain justice.
"The National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect's Love Bites teaches teens the value of respectful relationships and the effects of domestic and sexual violence," she said.
Women's Legal Service Queensland solicitor Julie Sarcozy said the percentage of women who disclosed sexual violence in intimate partner relationships was "actually very, very high".
They are more prepared to disclose it to such services confidentially but often not to police.
"Women often feel like it is their fault, or they might rely financially on their abuser, or they have children with the abuser and these reasons make it difficult for them to disclose to police," Ms Sarcozy said.
Queensland Police acknowledged rape and sexual violence were "significantly under-reported", saying there was a slight rise in the number of people coming forward in 2016-17 compared to the previous 12 months.
Anyone feeling unable to speak to police about an assault can use the online alternative reporting option that allows them to remain anonymous - www.police.qld.gov.au/programs/adultassault/altreportopt.htm
"Police can use this information to assist other prosecutions against an offender and protect the community by enabling police to devise intelligence-driven strategies designed to target an offender and reduce repeat offending," a police spokesperson said.
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 supports the Queensland Government's #dosomething campaign, which urges Queenslanders to phone police if they know someone is experiencing domestic and family violence. - 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.