Women emboldened to report assaults: data

·2-min read

An increased willingness from victims to report sexual violence allegations has prompted a major spike in incidents being referred to NSW Police.

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research on Thursday said police recorded 940 allegations of sexual assault in March 2021.

This was more than 60 per cent higher than the monthly average, with two thirds of the increase involving teenage complainants.

Reports of both contemporary and historical rapes spiked, BOCSAR said.

Executive director Jackie Fitzgerald said "saturation media coverage" of sexual assault allegations and policy debates about consent education in NSW schools had seemingly emboldened women to report sexual violence.

Ms Fitzgerald attributed the jump in sexual assault reports to increased victim willingness to come forward, rather than an increase in rape prevalence.

"Typically only around 10 per cent or 15 per cent of adult sexual assault victims report to police," Ms Fitzgerald said in a statement.

"The March 2021 increase shows that, under the right conditions, more victims will come forward. More now needs to be done to make sure that victims who reach out are appropriately supported."

BOCSAR data shows victims of alleged sexual assault aged between 13 and 20 accounted for almost two-thirds of the increase in reports.

Almost 300 people aged between 13 and 15 reported sexual violence incidents to police over the course of March.

The number of adults reporting sexual assaults against them as adults was also 78 per cent higher than the monthly average over the previous 12-month period.

Adult victims are considered those older than 16.

Sexual assault reports doubled or more in a number of Sydney regions including the eastern suburbs, the CBD, Ryde, North Sydney and Baulkham Hills and Hawkesbury.

The NSW government last week announced it was developing new school learning resources for sexual consent education and "respectful relationships".

It comes after more than 38,000 people signed a petition, started by former Sydney schoolgirl Chanel Contos, calling for earlier and better education around sexual consent in schools.

The government also last month announced reforms to NSW's sexual consent laws that will make it easier to successfully prosecute sexual assault cases.

Under the laws, accused rapists would only be able to prove sex was consensual if they took active steps to obtain consent.

About 90 per cent of adult sexual assault victims in NSW and 80 per cent of child sexual assault victims in NSW are female.

Ms Contos told ABC radio on Thursday that more needed to be done to support sexual assault survivors and educate the community.

"People are feeling empowered to tell their story to authorities, they're not scared of it as much as before," Ms Contos said.

"I'm also just really glad people in positions of power have access to tangible statistics to show just how under-reported this is".