Sexual assaults more than double world average

MARTY SILK
Last updated 20:12 13/02/2014

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The rate of sexual assault in Australia and New Zealand is more than double the world average, according to a new report.

After several highly publicised rapes and murders of young women in India and South Africa, researchers from several countries  decided to review and estimate prevalence of sexual violence against women in 56 countries.

The results, published in the UK medical journal The Lancet, found that 7.2 per cent of women aged 15 years or older  reported being sexually assaulted by someone other than an intimate  partner at least once in their lives.

The study found that Australia and New Zealand has the third-highest rate, more than double the world average, with 16.4  per cent.

However, the study’s authors have cautioned that the figures  probably underestimate the true rate of sexual violence because in many areas women don’t report assaults because of underlying social  or cultural stigma.

NSW Rape Crisis Centre executive officer Karen Willis says Australia is doing a fairly good job recording sexual violence, but  that doesn’t mean we should sit back and think that all is  wonderful.

‘‘We have an endemic problem, it’s probably no better or worse  than anywhere else in the world,’’ she told AAP.

‘‘Unfortunately what we haven’t done is a much better job of  preventing it.’’

Willis said that it was especially sad there hadn’t been any change in the rate of sexual assault per capita this year.

She said that society, the government and the judicial system needed to work together to change the culture of some men.

‘‘It’s only a small group of men who commit these acts of  violence, but behind that small group is another whole range of  men, who are quite happy to talk in derogatory and demeaning ways about women or treat women in ways that indicate they’re  second-class citizens,’’ Willis said.

‘‘Those sort of cultures then allow at the extreme end, thos  that use violence to feel more comfortable doing so.’’

The Centre Against Sexual Assault’s Victoria spokeswoman Carolyn  Worth agreed, saying it was important to remember that many sexual  assaults were perpetrated by men who knew their victims.

‘‘After these assaults a lot of their friends ask ‘what was she  doing with him, she was drunk so why did she go back to his  house’,’’ she told AAP.

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‘‘It has nothing to do with any of that, women and men deserve to go about their business unmolested, full stop.

‘‘No one has the right to have sex with anyone, they always need  consent.’’


- AAP

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