In 2017-18, the sexual assault victimisation rate for females in WA was 7.0 per 10,000 females, well above the 14-year average rate of 6.1 (Women’s Report Card 2019).
Did you know that Western Australia has the highest rate of sexual assault in the country and was second only to the Northern Territory in terms of the rate of domestic violence in 2016?
Concerningly, the RRR context can add a layer of disadvantage and difficulty for women seeking justice. When speaking with the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) based in Perth they talked us through the confronting steps a sexual assault victim should take if they wish to make a formal report, ultimately pursue justice and receive appropriate medical attention. (Justice is not always the right path for some women, instead healing, support and recovery is preferred. In this case there are sexual assault regional centres that can assist).
The first, and most vital step is to collect evidence and there are two processes available. There is the ‘Early Evidence Kit’ which can be performed by nearly all police officers, trained nurses or midwives across the state and the ‘Full Forensic Evidence Kit’ which can only be administered by specifically trained staff and or at the SARC in Perth. The latter kit is the preferred option but for a RRR woman – SARC, a hospital and a police station could be out of reach and therefore, so is justice.
SARC is an unlikely option for most RRR women simply because of its metro location, leaving only RRR hospitals and police stations. However, while women make up only approximately 20% of the police force compared with 89% of nursing, female sexual assault victims are more likely to approach a hospital to seek the professional and trusted assistance by another female, leaving just one option out of the available three.
However, there are other reporting complications to consider that can obstruct the pursuit of justice for RRR women. Such as, the nearest hospital or police station may be hours away, or the victim may not have access to a vehicle to get to a hospital, or the money to pay for the petrol and the victim may be in trauma and or suffering an injury restricting ability to drive a vehicle. Lastly, adding to the emotional burden of formal reporting is knowing that the DNA evidence should be ideally collected within hours/days of the attack.
Fortunately, realising these social and practical difficulties, SARC do encourage victims any time following an assault to seek their help and advice. There is also a possibility that DNA evidence may still be present up to two weeks following an assault.
For some RRR women, the pursuit of safety and justice could prove to be too difficult financially, practically and emotionally. Isolation becomes an overwhelming barrier to safety and justice, and sexual assault in the remote areas of Australia will only continue until reporting avenues become easier and more accessible.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, the RRR urges you to make contact with SARC to give you the necessary support and advice. Alternatively, if you’re not ready to speak with someone please read the information available on the SARC website to answer any of your queries.