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11,000 Assaults In A Year

A SEX crimes court is one of several measures being considered by the State Government after it was presented with horrifying new rape statistics.
The existence of hundreds of previously unreported gang rapes and child sexual assaults has prompted Attorney-General Bob Debus to appoint a special taskforce thai would begin work "as soon as possible" to make it easier for rape victims to give evidence.
"A meeting took place a fortnight ago in which it was decided to move forward with plans that will improve the system as far as sexual assault cases are concerned," Mr Debus told The Sun Herald yesterday.
The taskforce will begin work in the new year. Some of that work will include looking at existing models overseas to see how they operate.
The NSW sexual assault and court conviction statistics, to be released on Thursday reveal that 11,000 people contacted NSW Police in the past financial year to report a sexual assault.
This included 63 gang- rape offences and 320 child sexual assaults.
A further 3352 cries for help were received by the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, the State's only 24-hour rape counselling service. The historic reforms would be a first for Australia and were the result of intensive lobbying by the NSW Rape Crisis Centre.
Centre manager Karen Willis, who attended a crisis meeting with Mr Debus, his senior policy advisers and the State Government's law reform section, said: "We spoke at length about a place where everybody from the Judge to the cleaner would be trained to deal specifically within this area; the idea being that victims get treated with greater dignity respect and, of course, that justice is served."
Ms Willis said the gathering was sparked by statistics, which she argued proved rape victims were being let down more than ever.
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research report figures show a dramatic increase in the number of sexual assaults reported to police - from 9151 in 2002-03 to about 11,000 to the end of June 2004.
As well as the staggering number of reported gang rapes and child sexual assaults, the NSW Rape Crisis Centre reported 196 adults stepping forward for the first time to admit they were sexually assaulted when they were children. There were 77 people aged 55 and older who reported being raped.
The bureau report also showed 63 people contacted the service believing they had fallen pray to drink spiking.
Ms Willis said: Sexual assault figures are increasing across the board, but it's impossible to know whether it's the number of incidents that are rising or the number of women deriding to come forward. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics collated the police figures . . we only recently finalised ours.
"When you consider the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that only 20 per cert of rapes get reported, it means we're looking at a potential figure of around 60,000 sexual assaults in NSW in the past year. For the same period, there were just 247 convictions," Ms Willis presented these figures to Mr Debus.

The Sun Herald (21-11-2004)
Eamonn Duff

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