Victim-survivors of sexual violence fear they will not be believed, but Murrumbidgee Police assure victims will be supported and all claims investigated in our district.
"Police will thoroughly investigate sexual assaults regardless of whether they occurred recently or many years ago and take appropriate action against offenders," Murrumbidgee Police District Commander, Superintendent Craig Ireland said.
"The key message for victims is that every NSW Police District, including Murrumbidgee has specially trained detectives capable of investigating sexual assault and offering professional support to victims through the criminal justice process.
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"Their training tries to impart the victims point of view to give officers the capacity to empathise with the victim and have an understanding of some of the intricacies of the impact of a sexual assault on the victim."
Superintendent Ireland said while sexual assaults can be difficult to convict, he has seen it done many times and he encourages victims to come forward to police.
Many victim-survivors choose not to speak up for fear of not being believed, explained Emily, a trauma specialist counselor with Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia.
***Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia | 1800 424 017
"There are so many barriers that prevent victims from coming forward but one of the most prevalent is shame for the fear of not being believed," she said.
"We have unfortunately had a history of victim blaming in this country and people internalise that and start to blame themselves for things that may have happened to them.
"Very often things have happened a long time ago and they've kept it a secret and then they feel as though their story may not be well received or heard."
'Everyone has the right to be where they are, wear whatever they want to and not be sexually assaulted. The blame needs to be with the perpetrators'
The trauma of a sexual assault can cause a person to cope in many unhealthy or destructive ways, such as drug use or self-harm especially if they are not supported. Emily says it's imperative we believe victims, listen to them and support them to get professional help.
"Firstly listen. So often we jump in to action, so just listen to that person," she said.
"Validate and acknowledge the impact that this kind of trauma has. Tell them it's really important that they get some professional help. It sets the tone for how this information is received and their ability to seek further assistance.'
Emily says hopefully the media attention around the issue at present will help break down the culture of blaming victims for someone else's actions.
"Everyone has the right to be where they are, wear whatever they want to and not be sexually assaulted. The blame needs to be with the perpetrators."
Anyone who has been impacted by sexual violence can contact Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia to talk with specialist psychologists and social workers. The telephone service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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