Take action to impact social change
Action by all of the community is essential to reduce and eradicate the impacts of sexual violence. Only together will our collective energy show those impacted by sexual violence that we, as a community, care and have the willing and fortitude to create a society free of violence.
Working together to tackle the drivers of sexual assault
Sexual violence in Australia is prevalent, serious and an abuse of human rights. The impact on individuals, families and communities is devastating and the broader social and economic costs are staggering.
But it doesn’t have to this way.
Evidence informs us that sexual violence is preventable. We all need to work together in our homes, workplaces, schools and social groups to address its main driver – gender inequality.
We do this by:
- challenging the condoning of violence against women and children
- challenging harmful gender stereotypes and roles
- promoting women’s independence and decision-making
- strengthening positive, equal relationships based on respect.
Together, we can build a future where women and children live free from violence and all women are respected, valued and included.
As every person, community, and setting is different, so are primary prevention techniques and initiatives. Primary prevention efforts will be most effective, when they are consistently mutually reinforced, across a range of settings.
Our approach to primary prevention
Our organisation is deeply committed to the primary prevention of sexual and gendered violence. We endorse a public health approach of working across the population at the community, organisational, systemic, institutional and societal levels to challenge the gendered norms, practices and structures that drive and support this violence.
Our practices are evidence-based and align with government frameworks and reform. We understand that gender inequality cannot be separated from other forms of inequality and we must focus efforts on the intersections between such inequalities. Accordingly, we take an intersectional approach informed by partnerships and initiatives that seek to challenge power, privilege and oppression that is reinforced by social systems and structures. This includes work to challenge forms of discrimination including homophobia and transphobia, racism, ableism, ageism and classism.
As noted in an Our Watch paper, of analysis of existing research, “it is increasingly evident that gender inequality also functions as a driver of violence against people within lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) communities, albeit with a slightly more nuanced focus. Binary sex categorisations and rigid adherence to binary gender roles and stereotypes significantly impacts on how LGBTIQ people are treated – both structurally and individually”.
We engage in systematic evaluation of the activities, outputs and impacts of our projects to continually improve our practice, inform future work and contribute to the evidence base of primary prevention.
Our primary prevention services
Sexual violence is a serious health issue that requires a community-wide response.
Our work is focused on preventing sexual violence and building capacity to respond to disclosures in a sensitive and empathetic way.
Currently we are:
- collaborating with lead primary prevention practitioners’ agencies within a Community of Practice for aims to deepen and expand knowledge and improve service delivery
- delivering professional develop, supervision to practitioners, students and community members to build community awareness of drivers of sexual and gendered violence.
Reform, strategy and resource
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in policy activity with federal and state/territory governments and research to prevent sexual and gendered violence. Below is a list of key resources to support you in your primary prevention work that we will continue to update.
Key framework for primary prevention
Change the Story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia by Our Watch, ANROWS and VicHealth
Schools are safe places for many children. They can be a place where the staff can be advocates for children who have experienced trauma and neglect. We work with schools to build capacity of school staff to identify indicators of sexual abuse and how to respond sensitively without causing further trauma. We also work in collaboration with health, youth organisations, advocates for children, film makers and others to develop engaging programs with students around consent, bystander and gendered drivers of sexual violence.
Contact us on email@example.com to discuss training options available to schools.
- Council of Australian Governments’ National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children 2010–2022
- Victorian Government’s Royal Commission into Family Violence Report and Recommendations
- Victorian Government’s Free from Violence: Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women
CASA Forum Submissions
Keep in touch
There is strength in numbers. Become part of our community network that seeks an end to sexual violence. Keep up to date with the work we’re doing that is having a real impact on social change. Sign up to our email list and follow us on social media for updates, media releases and our training schedule.
Our therapeutic work is informed by latest neuroscience research evidence. We welcome the opportunity to work with universities and research institutes to further develop the evidence base for trauma informed care. Please email us with your requests: firstname.lastname@example.org
Know your rights
If you have been sexually assaulted (or a member of your family has) then you or they are a victim of a serious crime. You are able to seek legal redress. This means you have the right to seek justice through the court system. Instigating legal procedings can benefit your healing process to help get on with your life sooner. However, it can also be a very stressful process.
At CASA, not only do we provide counselling for sexual assault trauma, we offer support and advocacy for you and your family as you make your way through the legal system.
The basic laws about consent are that people can’t have sex together if:
- one of them is under the age of consent
- one person doesn’t want to
- they are in the same family
If you have sex with someone underage or against their will it is a serious crime, called a sexual offence.
Sexual Assault, the Law and your Rights
This booklet is produced by our sister organisation: South Eastern CASA. It has information about getting support, reporting the assault to the police, intervention orders, going to court, compensation and financial assistance and where to get help.
When one person does not agree to sex
As well as age limits, the law says that two people can’t have sex unless they both freely agree (consent). If you don’t freely agree and someone threatens you to engage in a sexual act or touches you sexually or indecently they are breaking the law.
Sexual offences include rape, incest, sexual assault against both adults and children.
It may also be a sexual offence if:
- you agreed but then changed your mind, and the other person did not believe on reasonable grounds that you continued to consent to the act
- someone has sex with you or touches you sexually when you are asleep, unconscious or so affected by alcohol or drugs that you are not able to agree.
Sexting and child pornography
Sending nude photos can seem harmless fun, but be careful – if you send sexual images electronically or agree to other people taking them of you, they can become part of your ‘digital footprint’, which may last forever. It could damage your future career prospects or relationships or lead to criminal charges.
‘Sexting’ is distributing an intimate image of a person (over 18 years) to others without their consent and the distribution of the image is contrary to community standards of acceptable conduct. This might include nude, sexual or indecent photos using a computer, mobile phone or other electronic device.
Sexting is a crime if you intentionally distribute an intimate image of a person under 18 to others, even if they agree to the sext message being sent. You could also be charged by police with child pornography offences.
What should I do if someone sends you an illegal photo or video
- DO NOT keep it, forward it on or upload it
- DELETE it immediately, if you can
- BLOCK the person who sent it to you
New laws to protect children
In response to the institutional failings highlighted in the ‘Betrayal of Trust’ inquiry, the Victorian government introduced a new offence to the Crimes Act that places important new obligations on people who work with children. From 1 July 2015, it is a criminal offence to negligently fail to protect a child from sexual abuse perpetrated by someone associated with your organisation.
If you work in an organisation that works with children, it is important you are aware of recent changes to the law that affect your obligations to protect them from abuse.
What you need to know
Fail to Protect law:
The ‘fail to protect’ offence is set out in section 49C of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and it says that a person will commit an offence if:
- they hold a position of authority within an organisation that works with children;
- they know of a substantial risk another adult associated with their organisation will commit a sex offence against a child (under 16) within the organisation’s care; and
- they have the power or responsibility to remove or reduce that risk
- BUT they negligently fail to do so
The maximum penalty for this offence is 5 years imprisonment.
Who does this law apply to?
This law applies to people who work in organisations that exercise care, supervision or authority over children – whether as part of their primary functions or otherwise. This means it will apply to organisations like:
- Churches & religious bodies
- Schools, educational and care services
- Children’s services
- Out of home care services
- Government departments
- Sporting groups
- Youth organisations
Fail to Disclose Law:
It is now a criminal offence for an adult in Victoria to ‘Fail to Disclose’ to the police any reasonable belief that a sex offence has been committed by an adult (someone over the age of 18) against a child under the age of 16.1 You must report sexual offences against children to the police as soon as possible, unless you have a ‘reasonable excuse’ or an ‘exemption’ applies.
This law applies to all adults, whether they have a child related job or not and whether theycome across information in their professional or private lives. If you do not pass this information onto the police you could be charged and subject to criminal consequences. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment.
What types of offences do you need to report to police?
You must report sexual offences committed by an adult against a child under 16, including:
- Sexual assault
- Sexual touching
- Any attempted sexual offence
What is a ‘reasonable belief’?
You will form a reasonable belief that a sex offence has been committed if a reasonable person, with your skills and experience, would have formed such a belief. You do not need to have proof or concrete evidence. A reasonable belief means it is more likely than not that it happened.
You might base a reasonable belief on: things a young person tells you, things someone else tells you about a young person and / or your observations of a young person’s behaviour.
Are there any situations where I don’t need to make a report?
Yes. You have a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to report if:
- you fear that making a report to police will put your safety or someone else’s safety at risk (other than the perpetrator)
- you have a reasonable belief that somebody else has already made a report to police and there is nothing further you could add. In addition, you will be ‘exempt’ from reporting to police in situations where:
- the victim is over 16 years old, has capacity and requests confidentiality
- special laws of privilege or confidential communications apply (e.g. between lawyers and their clients, journalists and their sources etc).
- the information is already public
- you were under 18 at the time you came across the information
Reporting sexual abuse
Making the decision about whether or not to report sexual abuse can feel like an overwhelming experience. Sexual abuse cases are investigated by the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCIT) or by the Sex Crimes Squad (SCS).
Being fully informed about what to expect during the legal process will help you to make a decision about how to proceed. At every stage CASA Central Victoria can provide counselling, support and advocacy. You never need to feel that you will go through the legal process alone.
Reporting sexual abuse that happened a long time ago
There are no time limitations on reporting sexual abuse. This means you can report sexual abuse to the police at any time, no matter how many years ago it occurred.
Recent sexual abuse
If you or a member of your family has been sexually abused or assaulted within the past 72 hours and wish to report to the police, you will be offered the opportunity to have a Forensic Medical Examination to collect evidence of the crime. This process is co-ordinated between CASA Central Victoria, the Police and the Sexual Offences & Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT).
I’m concerned about a child, where should I go?
If you are worried about a child and you think they are in immediate danger, you can report this to police by phoning 000.
In all other situations, you can report abuse at your local police station or by phoning your local Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT), and contacting The Department of Health and Human Service – Child Protection (North Division) on 1300 664 977 Or After hours Child Protection Emergency Service – 13 12 78.
Remember, any report you make in good faith will not breach your professional ethics or create any liability on you
Financial assistance and compensation
If you have experienced sexual violence, you may be able to:
- apply for financial assistance through the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal to help you recover from the effects of the crime.
- get compensation from the person who committed the crime or through civil court action.
Who can apply
To apply for financial assistance you must be able to show the link between the crime and injury, either physical or emotional.
The crime must have:
- been reported to police within a reasonable time – the police do not need to arrest anyone, or lay any charges, but the tribunal must be satisfied that a crime has taken place
- occurred within the last two years (except in the case of certain childhood sexual crimes), although it may be possible to gain an extension of time from the tribunal.
You can apply to the tribunal even if the crime was committed by your partner or family member.
How to apply
To apply you need to fill in an Application for Assistance form and send it to the tribunal. This is free. Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal’s website has more information on how to apply
If you have a lawyer, the tribunal may pay for your lawyer’s fees, even if they refuse your application. This is at the tribunal’s discretion. In some circumstances Victoria Legal Aid might also be able to assist you to make an application.
What assistance is available
The tribunal may help you with a range of expenses including counselling, medical, safety-related, and funeral expenses. You may also get assistance for lost earnings and other reasonable expenses to assist your recovery.
The amount of assistance you can get depends on whether you are:
- the person injured in the crime
- someone who witnessed a crime or is a parent of a child victim
- a relative or dependent of someone who has died as a result of the act of violence.
See the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal’s website for the types of financial assistance available
Compensation through the courts
You can apply to the sentencing judge to get compensation for any pain and suffering you have experienced as a result of the crime. Discuss the details of your claim with a lawyer as early as possible.
If the judge makes an order for compensation, the offender is responsible for paying it. If the offender has no assets, it may be difficult to get any payment. The court will take the offender’s financial circumstances into consideration when making the order.
The Victims of Crime website has more on how to get compensation from the offender
You may also be able to take the offender to civil court to get compensation for the injury you have suffered. This will depend on whether the offender has any assets. The offender does not have to have been convicted or found guilty in a criminal court for this to happen. You can include the loss, destruction or damage of your property in your claim.