Saturday, 29 December 2012

Violence Against Women

The death of Jill Meagher shocked Melbourne.  Today a young Indian woman died in a Singapore hospital as a result of injuries following her rape by six young men.  In Alice Springs a woman died of injuries following being beaten over the weekend.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sexting Inquiry

When iphones and ipads were developed no one thought that young people would use them to send sexy photos of themselves. There is no specific law that deal with sexting so a number of young people have been caught up in charges of child pornography and have then been placed on the Sex Offender Register.   This legislation and the Register were created to deal with paedophiles and people who create child abuse material for profit not teenagers sending a photo of themselves to their boyfriend or girlfriend. The child pornography provisions of the Crimes Act 1858 need to be amended to allow for consensual sexting. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Royal Commission Into Child Sexual Abuse Website

The Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse has a website that makes the issue look like a mental health issue.  There are a number of national telephone numbers but there are no sexual assault services listed.  Hopefully this is an oversight that will be addressed.  If it is not an oversight it demonstrates a woeful lack of understanding about the complexity of childhood sexual assault.  Victims need to be able to access specialist sexual assault services.  They are not all in need of psychiatric intervention.  They are not all depressed.  Many of them are angry and distress.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Privilege in the Confessional

There is considerable debate about  the secrecy of the confessional.  Whilst a number of priests have stated that they have never had anyone disclose child abuse in the confessional I think the issue is symbolic.  The perception is that the Catholic Church has not protected children and has kept the identity of the abusers secret not to mention paying their legal costs and moving them around to escape prosecution. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Shot Pakistan Girl - Malala Yousafzai

Whilst we are immersed in our own struggles for better access to services for sexual assault and family violence victims, it is important to maintain a sense that we have come a long way even if there is a long way to go.  Some fights have been won.  No one argues children should not be educated. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

SECASA's 35th Birthday

SECASA is 35 years old.  Although we often think that there are not enough services for victims of sexual assault it is important to appreciate how far we have all travelled in the sexual assault field.  When SECASA started in the Queen Vic Hospital in 1977 the only assistance for victims of a recent sexual assault was a medical in the Russell Street Police Station with the Police Surgeon Peter Bush. Later when he moved to the Queen Vic to provide medicals there was a social worker available to assist victims.  Slowly the service grew and other services started to operate.  Children were provided with counselling, victims of childhood sexual assault and men were provided with specific counselling.  Slowly the field grew until there are now 16 CASAs with over 200 staff and a statewide budget of over $18 million. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

On line Reporting Application

It was clear following Jill Meagher's murder that a number of women had had threatening experiences on the streets in the area where Jill was abducted.  Most of these women had not reported or tried to report to the Police.  New South Wales and Queensland have on line anonymous reporting which enables the Police to gather information about areas where women are being assaulted or harassed when the victims do not want to report to the Police but are willing to go on line. 

Friday, 28 September 2012

Abduction, Rape and Murder

Abduction, rape and murder are our worst fears.  Jill Meagher's murder will leave many women feeling our streets are inherently unsafe. Jill's murder is a tragedy.  It is an unbelievable disaster for her husband, family, friends and collegues and leaves the wider community bewildered.  But this was an opportunistic brutal crime.  Women should not live in fear of stranger assaults.  We should be aware of our circumstances - walking down dark lanes, where we park our car, looking out for friends when they drink too much - but we should not start believing this is an escalation in violence against women.  Once we retreat from public spaces in fear the violent men win. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Sexual Assault Service System

Having been in the sexual assault field for over two decades I often despair about the gaps and deficiencies in the system.  Then I read an article about the situation in other countries (The Saturday Age 15/9/12) and realise that for all its problems we have a situation where victims can go to the Police and feel confidence that their complaint will be passed onto a specialist squad.Complaints against powerful and high profile men are dealt with in the same way as other complaints.  With all the reforms that have taken place over the past decade we have reason to be proud of our approach to sexual assault in Victoria.  This does not mean that there have not been dreadful miscarriages of justice in the past.  Clearly the current Government inquiry into the sexual abuse of childen in religious and other non Government institutions is uncovering many dreadful situations that have been pushed under the carpet and ignored. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Welcome Increase in Victoria Police Crime Statistics

The new statistics released by Victoria Police show a 43.3 percent increase in the number of violent family crimes reported to their members.  This is obviously a shocking percentage but also a welcome sign of an increase in reporting.  It is hard to believe that our society has suddenly become more violent for some family members.  However, it does appear that the millions of dollars spent on family violence and sexual assault services over the past six or seven years to increase reporting has started to pay results.The only negative side of the increase in reports has been the blow out in demand for follow up services, including counselling, leading to increased waiting times which make it difficult for victims who need assistance in a timely fashion.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Apologies

It is gratifying that organisations that have been resistant to acknowledging victims stories have apologised this week.  Yeshivah College and the Catholic Church bureaucracy have both apologised to victims.  The next step for both organisations and others in Victoria is to put in place independent arrangements to assist victims with disclosures. Without any intention of silencing victims large organisations do this especially if the offender is powerful or high up in the hierarchy.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Sexual Assault Allegations Against Julian Assange

Whilst Julian Assange's concerns about the possibility of his being deported to the USA are clearly not just paranoid conspiracy theories, it is unfortunate that his supporters find it necessary to either ignore or dismiss as false reports the allegations of sexual assault. It has always been difficult to report sexual assault and even more so when the alleged offender has been a powerful man.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Parliamentary Inquiry into Sexual Abuse of Children in Religious and Other Institutions

SECASA encourages people to make a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into child abuse.  Although the paperwork relating to making a submission is daunting the process is not too hard.  If it is easier for you dot point your comments. Do not feel that you have to answer every question in the submission pro forma.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Working with Children Checks

Checks on people working with children are to be toughened after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal overturned rejections of a Check for applicants with serious histories of offending against children.  Obviously once you have served your time for an offence you are free to operate within the community. However, the Working With Children Checks are meant to protect children from predators or potential predators. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Social Media and Naming Offenders

A seventeen year old woman in Louisville, Kentucky is facing possible charges  for contempt of court after she tweeted the names of two adolescents who allegedly sexually assaulted her, videotaped the incident and posted it on line.  Frustrated with a plea bargain that reduced the charges against the two alleged offenders the young woman named the two young men in a tweet. Recently another victim of an alleged sexual assault in Melbourne went on line naming her alleged offender.  The world has changed with the advent of social media.  People can anonymously send information to a wide audience. Breaking the silence has for several decades been seen as empowering for victims of sexual assault.  The internet has given this slogan an entirely new meaning.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Religions Organsations and the Australian Defence Force

Religious institutions and the Australian Defence Force are vast hierarchical organisations that tend to react defensively whenever under attack from outsiders.  The Victorian Government has announced a Parliamentary inquiry into sexual abuse of children by religious and other organisations.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Senior Catholic Clergy and Sexual Assault

Yet again the Catholic Church is in the news about sexual assault with allegations (The Age 4.7.12) that senior clergy failed to pass on evidence to the authorities relating to accusations of sexual assault by a priest in New South Wales.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Disability and Sexual Assault

Sandy Guy wrote (Comment and Debate 2.7.12 The Age)  about her distress at the allegations of sexual assault by a staff member at Yooralla involving her largely non-verbal son.  We know that sexual assault is under reported and sexual assault of people with cognitive impairment and communication difficulties occurs at a higher level than the rest of society and is even less reported. Organisations who provide accommodation for people with an intellectual disability need procedures in place to deal with allegations of sexual assault that involved CASAs and the parents' of their residents.  It is not good enough that Sandy Guy finds out information about her son's alleged assaults from sources other than the organisation responsible for his care. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Taxi Scare Campaign

The taxi booking company 1300CABS has abandoned its campaign warning women about unmarked hire cars.  This campaign was in response to Professor Allan Fells report on his inquiry into the taxi industry which recommended opening up the taxi market to more prebooked hire cars. The campaign depicts a young woman screaming "Stop please, no, please" with her face against the window of a taxi.  The suggestion that goes with this lurid poster is that more pre-booked taxis will swamp the streets with "sexual predators".On Jon Faine's Friday morning program on 774 a spokesperson for this campaign stated categorically that London had more sexual assaults that Melbourne has with the present system.  This was nonsensical.  We do not know how many sexual assaults occur in the Melbourne system. London has a highly regulated taxi industry with high levels of knowledge around locations and streets. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Australian Defence Force Sexual Abuse

Recently there has been considerable publicity around claims of sexual and physical abuse in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) going back over 60 years. These claims have been ignored or discouraged. Times have changed in relation to sexual abuse over the past three decades. What could be brushed under the carpet 60 years ago is going to become public knowledge in this age when social media is available to most people. A report has been prepared following the investigation of approximately 800 complaints by the law firm DLA Piper. The investigation followed the 'Skype' scandal when two male cadets at the ADF filmed an 18 year old female cadet having sex. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Lingerie Football League

There is something disturbing about the Lingerie Football League.  Athletes and elite sports women and men often look beautiful.  They have muscles and lean bodies. So why would athletic young women need to parade around whilst playing a sport in their undies.  It demeans their athleticism and puts it on a par with pole dancing which can also be an activity that requires physical ability.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Parliamentary Inquiry Into Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Churches and Other Non Government Organisations

With a deadline of 30th April 2013the Parliament's six member Family and Community Development Committee will struggle to complete the inquiry into the handling of sexual abuse allegation by churches and non government organisations.With a generally accepted statistic of 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males sexually abused by the age of 15 the dimensions of this issue are clearly beyond a Committee that has two other concurrent inquiries. Victims deserve a better hearing than this.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Parliamentary Inquiry Into Sexual Abuse In Religious Organisations

The State Coroner will not be asked to reopen any investigations into deaths linked to sexual abuse by Catholic clergy until the Parliamentary Inquiry has concluded. 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Allegations of Child Sexual Assault in Small Communities

It becomes increasingly obvious that communities are not able to deal with allegations of child sexual assault internally.  There are frequent calls for independent outside organisations to investigate suggestions of wrongdoing in the Police Force and other large organisations with suggestions that people in power will try and cover up things to save face or protect the hierarchy.  There needs to be a far ranging discussion with communities including various cults, orthodox Jewish organisations, indigenous communities and all groups where elders have prestige and privileged positions about the difficulty of dealing with these issue internally.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Parliamentary Committee into Clergy Sex Abuse

The Parliamentary Committee recently set up to look into churches handling of sexual assaults has had its funding cut in the State budget.  This is patently ridiculous when there were already questions about its capacity to undertake the onerous and complex task it had been given.  We were already worried that it would not have enough people and resources to chase up documents and interview people prior to the budget cuts.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Girls Around Me

A app call Girls Around Me uses Foursquare and Facebook data to show the actual location of women.  On the surface this seems a harmless bit of fun for those looking for a nightclub with people they might wish to meet.  However, anyone using social media and apps in particular to broadcast their location needs to think about the implications of telling people they might not wish to know where they are their actual location.  Not everyone in the social scene is just out for a good time.  Some people are predatory and are out to hurt other people.  Your whereabouts should be your and your friends business not strangers who might not have your best interests at heart.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Sexual Harrassment

The David Jones case involving Kristy Fraser-Kirk against former chief executive Mark McInnes raised the profile of sexual harrasment cases.  It was a wake up call to organisations that they needed to have policies and procedures in place to deal with allegations of harrasment or face serious claims against them in court.  Recent research by academics Sara Charlesworth and Paula McDonald (to view report click here) based on data from 284 complaints found that 90 percent of alleged offenders were male and almost all victims were female.  In addition, although the David Jones case with its multi million dollar claim has stayed in most of our minds the average payout was $13 596. The Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission's statistics found that rather than put in a claim one in five people just resigned. A legal firm which handles sexual harrasment cases suggested that the number of sexual harrasment allegations had fallen in most workplaces and that victims were more willing to speak out and take legal action.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Sexting

Most sexting is between young people who are involved in a consensual relationship.  It becomes complicated when one party to the relationship is under age and the other is over 18 years of age. Recently a number young people who have sent explict pictures either to their girlfriend or boyfriend under 15 years of age have found themselves charged with breach of age of consent laws.  Then when convicted there has been an automatic registration on the Sex Offenders Register for up to 15 years or life. The legislation establishing the Sex Offender Register was never intended to deal with young offenders who pose no threat to children or other young people. It was intended to keep children safe from high risk predators. The Government has two inquiries dealing with the issue of sexting amongst other matters. The Victorian Law Reform Commission's (VLRC) report into the registration of sex offenders was tabled in State Parliament. One of the reports recommendations is that young people convicted of sexting no longer be automatically put on the Register. The second inquiry is due to report at the end of the year with its main focus sexting and the appropriate penalties and ways of dealing with offences.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Parliamentary Inquiry Into Churches Handling of Sex Offences

Sexual abuse of children is a crime committed in private without witnesses.  Organisations that deal with this abuse in private, behind closed doors just strengthen the systems that enable the abuse to take place in the first place.  It has taken a long while for a Victorian Government to announce an inquiry into the handling of child sexual assaults within religious communities.  Now the Parliamentary Inquiry has been announced it is to be hoped that it will have sufficient resources to undertake this task in an effective manner. 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

High Court Overturns Victoria Court of Appeal in Getachew Case

The High Court has called into question the technicality in relation to consent and directions to juries used to appeal a number of rape cases in Victoria.  Tomas Getachew raped a woman who was asleep. The case went to retrial after the Court of Appeal ruled the trial judge did not give a particular direction about consent to the jury.  As the Victorian Law Reform Commission has pointed out the number and complexity of jury directions in Victoria has increased markedly over the past 25 years.  It is time for the Government to look at reforming jury directions so that errors in direction will not result in more unnecessary appeals and retrials. 

Monday, 12 March 2012

Defence Sexual Assault Scandals

The Australian Defence Forces are work places like any other and sexual assault and sexual harassment should be dealt with the same way.  Not releasing the outcome of the inquiry by Andrew Kirkham, QC, into the Skype sex scandal is understandable in that the matter is still before the courts.  However, for us to have confidence in the Australian Defence Force handling of such situations it is essential that they have transparent processes for dealing with such issues.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Naming Paedophiles

The report into vulnerable children and child protection has been released. The 900 page report includes recommendations around extending mandatory reporting to include childcare workers and kindergarten teachers, clerics being required to report colleagues in religious organisations if suspected of child abuse and repeal of the law that requires sex offenders names to be suppressed.  The difficulty with publicising the names of paedophiles is that most children and young people know their offender.  Whilst we can all understand why parents would like to know if a paedophile lives in their neighbourhood, identifying sex offenders will often identify their victims and families.  This report was about the protection of vulnerable children. Identifying them and their relatives is not in their long term interests. 

Monday, 27 February 2012

Clinical Supervision

SECASA provides clinical supervision for professionals and agencies working with people who have experienced sexual assault and/or family violence. The SECASA supervisors are experienced counsellors who are qualified psychologists and social workers.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Making Rights Reality Launch

The Making Rights Reality project was launched on Friday 24th February 2012 at 10.00 at the Multicultural Hub in Elizabeth Street.  This project brings together SECASA, The Federation of Community Legal Services and Springvale Monash Community Legal Service.  Making Rights Reality is a two year pilot aimed at making it easier for victims of sexual assault with a cognitive impairment or communication difficulties to report sexual assault by providing them with intensive, ongoing support.
This project has received funding from a number of philanthropic trusts including the William Buckland Foundation, Portland House Foundation, Reichstein Foundation and Victorian Women's Trust. The Department of Human Services has also provided some funding.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Child Sexual Abuse Material Increase

The Australian Federal Police reported in The Age (8.2.12) that they now find hundreds of thousands and even millions of images of child abuse material on suspects' computers.  The Cyber Crime Unit Head commented that there was no empirical evidence of an increase in the number of paedophiles but that access to images of child pornography had become easier with the advent of the internet.
It is heartening to know that international law enforcement agencies are co-operating on this issue and that there was a 30 percent increase in arrests for child pornography offences in 2011.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Jury Directions in Sexual Assault Cases

There have been a number of appeals against rape convictions over the past two years on the grounds that the Judge erred in the directions to the jury.  This issue has raised its head again in The Age today with two of Victoria's leading jurists questioning the complexity and length of instructions from the Judge to a jury.  Victoria has lengthy and intricate jury directions that can lead to opening up the appeal avenue when a victim thinks their ordeal is over and justice has prevailed.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Government Consultation on Violence Against Women and Children

Mary Wooldridge, Minister for Mental Health, Women's Affairs and Community Services has released the Consultation Framework for the Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women and their Children.  If you would like to be part of this process and have something you would like the Government to know have a look at Template for written submissions to the Action Plan http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/  write a submission or attend a consultation and make your views known.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

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Victims No Longer

Victims No Longer is a weekend retreat for male victims of childhood sexual assault run by Mike Lew, famous author of Victims No Longer on Friday 23.3.12-Sunday 25.3.12 at a cost of $350.

This weekend has been run annually since 2008.  It takes place at Maldon in country Victoria and provides men with an opportunity to meet other men who have had similar experiences and space to deal with the many issues that slow down the healing process.

Mission statement

To reduce, and ultimately eliminate, sexual assault and family violence through
individual and social change.