Rape victims reporting more sex assault attacks in NSW Australia

Calls to the rape crisis line have more than doubled as courageous victims taking on their attackers and winning have helped remove the stigma attached to sex assault.

But disturbingly, new figures show that up to four women a week are being gang raped.

Brave young women like Tegan Wagner – who gave up her right to anonymity in order to tell her story and help other victims of rape come forward – have been instrumental in forcing a “cultural shift”.

“I think it’s fantastic that more women are speaking out,” Ms Wagner said yesterday. “They now know how empowering it can be. I have definitely seen a change in society’s attitude towards sexual assault.”

In the past three years, calls to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre have risen by 130 per cent – from 2927 calls in 2004/05 to 6730 in 2008/09. But the increase does not necessarily point to a rise in actual sexual assaults, Rape Crisis Centre manager Karen Willis said.

“There has been a cultural shift – society views sexual assault differently,” Ms Willis said. “There are reasons for this but I think we now have a generation who say ‘enough is enough’ and have taken a strong stance against rape. Certainly the bravery of those women like Tegan Wagner and the woman in the Coffs Harbour Bulldogs scandal did empower other victims to come forward. I don’t think you can underestimate what those victims did for the way sexual assault is now viewed in society.”

There were 9377 sexual assaults recorded last year. But that is only 15 per cent of the actual number of assaults occurring, Ms Willis said. Gang rape is also a common occurrence, with four women a week calling the crisis centre.

Police said a woman recently was sexually assaulted by a group of men at a party but did not want to press charges.

“It’s not how some people might view it. These men usually prey on a vulnerable woman who is at a party and she might go outside to be sick or even agree to have sex with one man and then others become involved,” Ms Willis said. “It might be two men but (nevertheless) that’s gang rape.”

Due to the growing demand on the service centre, Health Minister John Della Bosca has given $660,000 to employ specific counsellors to deal with adult victims of child sexual assault.

While victims are coming forward, many still feel too vulnerable to report the crime to police. Sex crimes squad commander Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec said police had not noted an increase in sexual assaults.

“That’s not necessarily a bad thing – we are making sure victims take the first step and start the road to recovery by contacting someone like the Rape Crisis Centre,” he said.

http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25771211-5001021,00.html



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