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Centres Against Sexual Assault angry at denial of support service funding

Sexual assault victims in Victoria will have to wait even longer for specialist counselling after a government department denied a leading support service funding.
Victoria's 15 Centres Against Sexual Assault, which support about 10,000 victims each year, were denied a slice of a $45 million Federal Government pledge to provide more support for victims who give evidence in the Royal Commission.
CASA learned last week the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs had rejected its application for $1.1 million of funding, with money instead allocated in Victoria to three family, youth and relationships support services.
CASA spokeswoman Carolyn Worth said the department told her it had denied the centres because their application hadn't demonstrated how their services would apply to the Royal Commission.
"You're talking about a specialist service system that covers the state with highly qualified staff. What do you mean how would that apply to the Royal Commission?" she said.
Ms Worth said CASA had experienced up to a 25 per cent increase in demand as a result of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the handling of abuse by religious and other organisations and the announcement of the Royal Commission, demand that will continue to rise.
Waiting times for the centres had exploded from two to seven weeks, with some rural facilities having wait times of six months or longer.
"Someone told me Warrnambool was offering appointments a year away. Well, there's no point in that," Ms Worth said.
Sexual assault survivor Amanda, who did not want her surname revealed, said CASA's free, confidential, 24-hour support services were "crucial" for victims.
The 41-year-old, who was abused by her grandfather throughout her childhood and teens, sought counselling from CASA eight years ago after her psychiatrist told her she was not qualified to help her work through the abuse.
"I feel in many respects, I owe (CASA) my life," she said.
Ms Worth said CASA would have used the funding to hire more staff, reduce waiting times and help victims write submissions to the Royal Commission, as they did for the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry.

Herald Sun (26-6-2013)
Samantha Landy

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